Safe Lawn Care for Pets

The “American Dream” includes owning your own home, with a nice yard where our kids can play and our pets are free to roam.

A nice lawn takes work, which in addition to timely fertilizer applications, often requires the use of weed and insect controls.

Fertilizer is needed to make the grass thick and green, while herbicides and pesticides are used to control unsightly weeds as well as lawn-destroying and nuisance insects.

For many pet owners, those products raise concerns about safety.

According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), when used according to package directions, most fertilizer and weed control products will not pose a health or safety risk for your pets. (taken from the ASPCA’s Web site,

The ASPCA also says “the most serious problems resulting from fertilizer ingestion in pets are usually due to the presence of heavy metals such as iron. Ingestion of large amounts of fertilizer could cause severe gastric upset and possibly gastrointestinal obstruction.”

Chris Schmenk, director of Environmental Stewardship at Scotts, says that it is very important for homeowners to read and follow label directions carefully. “All of our lawn products are registered for homeowner use, and included on every label are directions for use which include pet safety information,” Schmenk said.

The biggest concern with pet owners is over the use of pesticides, which are more toxic than fertilizers and herbicide products. When used correctly, they don’t pose any serious harm, however there are certain pesticide products which can be very dangerous if consumed by an animal.

The most dangerous forms of pesticides include: snail bait containing metaldehyde, fly bait containing methomyl, systemic insecticides containing disyston or disulfoton, zinc phosphide containing mole or gopher bait and most forms of rat poisons. When using these pesticides place the products in areas that are totally inaccessible to your companion animals.

For pet owners using any lawn or garden product in their yard, Scotts encourages consumers to keep pets such as cats and dogs out of the treated area until it is thoroughly dry. This is to minimize exposure to the product and also to avoid tracking of the product onto other plants, which could cause damage, and to avoid tracking it in the house.

Once a liquid product has dried, or once a granular product has been watered in to the soil and the grass or plants have dried, it will be safe for pets to be back in that area.

If you are unsure, then wait 24 hours before allowing your pets to re-enter that area. If your pets need access to the yard, consider treating the front yard on one day and the back yard on another. Although these pets may eat a small amount of grass, they will not be able to get enough of the product to cause a health hazard.

You know your pet better than anyone, therefore if your pet likes to eat grass, or dig, or other such behavior then use your best judgment when applying products to the areas where your pet has access.

Always store lawn care and gardening products where pets (and children) cannot get to them, such as up high on a shelf in the garage or in a locked storage shed. Read the label for proper storage of certain pesticides.

Again, Read Labels Carefully

The product’s label will include directions for use as well as warnings, including any cautions for using the product around animals.

Fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides undergo federal and state testing and evaluation requirements. And, as an added safety precaution, federal laws require that all lawn and garden control products undergo constant re-testing and re-registration to ensure that they comply with changing regulations.

The ASPCA strongly encourages everyone, including pet owners, to read and follow label directions carefully, and when in doubt to contact the manufacturer.

If you believe your pet has consumed a product, contact your veterinarian immediately. Have the product nearby or in hand when you call the veterinarian. If you accidentally spray your dog or cat with a lawn or garden care product, wash it off with soap and water immediately to avoid any irritations or harm.

By paying attention to labels and using products correctly, you’ll have a nice lawn that you and your pets will enjoy.