9 Surprising Dog Dangers in Your Own Backyard
A well-maintained yard is a dog’s dream. They can fulfill their urge for zoomies, sniff flowers, and roll around in fresh cut grass or a pile of leaves. Besides being a convenient option for dogs to go to the bathroom, backyards provide stimulation and excitement for your pooch. However, our yards can also pose some risks for dogs. Your pet may be exposed to toxic weeds and pesticides, have unpleasant encounters with wildlife, get bitten by mosquitoes, or fall into the pool.
When the weather is nice, it’s easy to just open the back door and let your furry friend bound out for some outdoor fun. Keep reading to learn about surprising dangers that may lurk in your yard and how to ensure a safe and fun time for your dog.
9 Backyard Dangers for Dogs
Toxic Weeds, Flowers, and Plants
Spring means vibrant tulips and daffodils lining the garden beds. These flowering bulbs, along with other spring staples like azaleas, are common toxic plants for dogs found in backyards, according to Dr. Patrik Holmboe, head veterinarian for Cooper Pet Care, a veterinary telemedicine provider in the Netherlands. “If ingested, these plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even death.”
When planning your garden, keep your dog’s health in mind and consider planting these spring essentials in an area where your dog cannot reach, perhaps in the front yard. Dr. Holmboe suggests researching the plants that are already present before allowing your dog unrestricted access to the yard. The ASPCA provides a long list of toxic flowers and toxic weeds for dogs and cats, as well as a list of safe plants for pets. Roses, marigolds, sunflowers, and African violets are among some of the pet-safe flowering plants.
Keep in mind that not all dogs gravitate toward flowers and weeds. Many are happy to ignore these blooms all together, but it’s important to keep an eye on your pet if you have toxic weeds or plants around.
Mulch, Sticks, and Rocks
Dogs, especially when they are puppies, are curious by nature and will try everything with their mouths when in the backyard. That may include rocks, sticks, and the fresh mulch chips you put down. “Consuming large quantities of sticks and mulch can irritate a dog’s digestive tract and cause GI symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhea,” says Dr. Kimberly DiMaio, practicing veterinarian at Main Street Vet, a small animal practice in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Similarly, eating rocks can also cause an obstruction that may require surgery. Most dogs grow out of their chewing phase when they become adults, but if your dog continues to persistently chew on non-edible food items beyond the puppy stage, he may have pica. This is a condition caused either by behavioral issues, such as boredom, stress, and anxiety, or by medical problems such as a nutritional deficiency or endocrine disorder. Seek veterinary help if your dog exhibits this behavior to find the right solution.
If your dog has a propensity for eating things in the yard, such as mulch, sticks, or rocks, Dr. DiMaio recommends preventing access. Walk your dog on a leash, fence off certain areas, and supervise their time outside to avoid exposure.
Ticks and Fleas
Ticks lurk in tall grasses and low shrubs, while fleas enjoy moist, shady areas, such as under bushes and trees. These pesky critters are problematic for your pup. Ticks can transmit dangerous diseases, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Fleas are tiny, bloodsucking parasites that can cause irritation, hot spots, hair loss, and allergic reactions. Dogs can also get a certain type of tapeworm from ingesting an infected flea while grooming themselves or biting at itchy spots.
Preventing ticks and fleas is not entirely possible, but Dr. Holmboe says the good news is “that modern tick-prevention medications are extremely effective.” Tick and flea prevention for dogs is available in the form of collars, topical treatments, and oral medications, some of which are combination products that tackle both fleas and ticks. It is also important to check your pet for ticks after a romp in the leaves or a hike in your nearby park using a flea and tick comb for dogs.
Parasites, by definition, rely on a host to thrive. Your dog can get intestinal worms, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, or tapeworms, by ingesting contaminated soil or poop or eating infected small animals in the yard.
“Parasites can remain active for years once an area is contaminated, so it is very easy for a dog to pick up parasites in the yard,” Dr. DiMaio says. “All it takes is one lick of a paw or out of a muddy puddle that has parasite eggs, and the dog can become infected.”
Not all parasitic infections show gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss, so Dr. DiMao recommends regular fecal screenings to diagnose and treat worms in dogs.
If mosquitoes typically have a field day when you spend time out in the yard, this means they are also feasting on your furry friend. All it takes is one bite from an infected mosquito for your dog to get heartworm disease. Thankfully, there are monthly heartworm preventatives that also deworm against common parasites, Dr. DiMao says. You can obtain heartworm preventatives with a prescription from your veterinarian.
Native wildlife, such as foxes, coyotes, squirrels, and raccoons, can pose a danger to our four-legged friends. Altercations can lead to injuries and some animals may carry infectious diseases. “Coyotes and eagles could take a shot at a small dog and snakes are an ever-present danger to dogs of all sizes,” says Dr. Holmboe.
While most non-predative wild animals tend to steer clear of dogs, others may fight back. “Skunks leave a strong, lasting impression if cornered by a dog, and the effects are possibly more painful for the pet owner to deal with in trying to remove the odor,” says Dr. DiMaio.
In addition, dogs can be injured by snake bites, and venomous snakes like rattlesnakes can be a real danger to dogs. If rattlesnakes are a big issue where you live, there is a rattlesnake vaccine for dogs.
Stinging insects like bees also pose a risk to your dog, especially if they like to stick their nose in flowers. “Bee stings can cause localized swelling and discomfort,” Dr. DiMaio says. Some dogs can have severe allergic reactions that require emergency treatment.
To prevent run-ins with wild animals, Dr. DiMaio suggests pet parents scan the yard before letting the dog out and always supervise playtime.
Pesticides and Fertilizers
Naturally, we want our lawns and garden beds to look beautiful, but some of the chemical treatments used to remove weeds and boost plant growth can be harmful to our pets. If you are caring for your backyard yourself, Dr. Holmboe suggests reading the package labeling to make sure they are pet-safe. Look for instructions on how long to keep your dog away from treated areas, and keep products stored away from pets.
Similarly, if you are using a lawn service provider, ask them how long pets should avoid contact with treated areas. Typically, this could be up to 24 hours.
Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs instinctively know how to swim. Just like us, they need lessons to navigate bodies of water with ease. If you have a swimming pool, pond, or any other water feature in your yard, it could be hazardous to your dog.
“The main issue here is drowning, of course, as a dog who falls into a pool might not know how to get out,” Dr. Holmboe says. “Pools of standing water can also be breeding grounds for nasty algae,” says Dr. Holmboe. Blue-green algae is toxic to dogs who may accidentally ingest it while swimming or drinking. Drinking stagnant water may expose your dog to leptospirosis, an infectious bacteria that can cause serious illness in both dogs and humans.
Block off access to bodies of water with a fence to avoid any danger. Even if your pet is an avid swimmer, supervise his time in the water to prevent unexpected accidents.
Holes, Gaps, and Crevices
No matter how savvy your dog is around the yard, it’s best to do a run-through of the area for any holes or pits before letting him out for playtime. “A running dog might injure their leg, or a raised decking where the railing has spaces large enough for a small dog to fit through could fall down,” warns Dr. Holmboe. You also never know what types of small critters could be hiding inside holes in the yard! Holes under the fence or gaps in your fencing can also lead to your dog going for a run around the neighborhood, which puts them at risk for being hit by a car.
Gardening tools and lawn equipment, such as rakes, spades, mowers, and trimmers, can all pose a hazard for pets. If you plan to do yard work, such as mowing the lawn or trimming the hedges, it’s best to keep your pet out of the way and indoors to prevent bodily injury. Not only can sharp edges and blades pose a risk, so can flying debris. Plus, many pets get freaked out by loud noises, so the sound of a lawn mower, leaf blower, or chainsaw could trigger anxiety. When not in use, all equipment (and fuel) should be safely stored away in a shed or garage. Creepy crawlies like spiders and snakes can also hide under leaf piles and other debris, so it’s best to clean up after yard work sessions.