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04.23.09

Springtime Yard Hazards for Pets

Springtime is garden time. Spring is when we plant new plants and get our yards ready to shine. While you are preparing your outdoor areas for your family to enjoy just make sure you take the steps to ensure that it is safe for your pets to enjoy as well.

"When planting your garden it is important to note that there are numerous house and garden plants which can be toxic to animals," warns Dr. Murl Bailey, professor of toxicology at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Several that come to mind initially are brunfelsia, lilies, cycads, kolanchoe, and oleander."

Brunfelsia, more commonly known as the yesterday, today & tomorrow plant, causes convulsive seizures in dogs that resemble strychnine poisoning.

"We haven't seen any problems in cats from brunfelsia, as of this date," notes Bailey. "While this plant is mostly a house plant, it could be in sheltered gardens in the southern part of Texas."

Cycads, low growing palm trees which are used both indoors and outdoors, are another type of plant that is toxic to dogs as they tend to chew on the roots. The cycad has a toxin in the root and stems that is toxic to the liver.

"When the liver is affected, the dog's body stops producing the normal, endogenous clotting factors and the dogs start bleeding excessively--to the extent that they can bleed to death," explains Bailey.

While brunfelsia and cycads may not be known to cause problems in cats, lilies are especially harmful to them. Once cats ingest lilies, they develop nausea and vomiting. Then they get depressed, and stop eating.

"Why cats like to eat them I don't know, probably boredom, but once they do these cats must be treated by a veterinarian, preferably within 24 hours and not later than 48 hours," states Bailey. "We do not know which toxin(s) are present in the lilies, but they are very toxic to the kidneys."

Kolanchoe is a type of house plant that is known to be toxic. This plant contains a chemical which is similar to the human heart medication, digoxin.

"The garden plant oleander also contains digoxin-like compounds. Both kolanchoe and oleander can be toxic to all animals, including dogs and cats, if ingested," says Bailey.

While spring is a time to plant beautiful flowers in your yard, it also brings pesky insects out in numbers. Because of this, another potential hazard this time of year is pesticides.

"All pesticides can cause problems in dogs and cats if the chemicals are stored incorrectly and misused," warns Bailey.

Bailey stresses that labels on all chemicals should be read very carefully and followed, especially when used around pets. He notes that animals do not have to eat the toxin; they can also become exposed through the skin and in the case of volatile agents, can be exposed just by breathing the contaminated air.

"If a pesticide is not specifically labeled to be used on dogs and/or cats, the pesticide can cause toxicities," Bailey states. "Some insecticides are labeled specifically for dogs and not for cats so it is important to read the labels thoroughly."

While there are more and more products out there that claim to be environmentally safe or "green," Bailey is not entirely convinced of their worth.

"Many alternative and "so-called" environmentally safe compounds are usually not very effective in controlling fleas, flies and ticks. The best thing for an animal owner to do is follow the labeled instructions," he adds.

Spring is a great time to enhance and enjoy the outdoors. Taking the time to make sure that everything you put in and on your yard is safe for your furry friends will ensure this time is special for the entire family.

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