Lawn Hazards for Dogs

Holiday & seasonal
golden retriever playing with ball on lawn

Summer sun on your face, the sweet scent of blooming flowers in the air, and the joyous spectacle of your dog romping through the freshly cut grass – these are the moments that make summertime truly special. It's a season for creating lasting memories with our furry companions. But before you unleash your pup for a full afternoon of backyard fun, it's important to take a moment for caution. 

Our lawns, while seemingly idyllic playgrounds for our dogs, can harbor hidden dangers. From undetectable chemicals to poisonous plants and unexpected critters, these potential threats can quickly turn a day of play into a trip to the vet. Let's take a closer look at some common lawn hazards and how you can keep your dog safe. 

Metal Lawn Edging  

While metal lawn edging may seem like a tidy landscaping solution, it can pose a significant risk to your four-legged friend. Sharp edges can cause serious injuries to paws and limbs, often requiring surgery. In fact, studies show up to 85% of dogs need surgery after getting hurt by metal edging. Among those, nearly one in five (18%) may require extensive repairs to heal skin, muscle, and connective tissues. Opt for pet-friendly alternatives like rounded plastic, stone, or concrete edging to keep your pup safe and your yard looking great. 

The Hidden Risks of Lawn and Garden Chemicals  

Creating a lush, green lawn can be a source of pride, but it's important to consider the potential impact of lawn and garden chemicals on our furry companions. Research suggests a possible link between these chemicals and an increased risk of certain cancers in dogs.  

Canine Malignant Lymphoma 

Studies have found a connection between lawn care products, especially those applied by professional companies, and a higher risk of canine malignant lymphoma. This risk was even present after considering factors like age and weight. Some bug control products homeowners use, called insect growth regulators, might also be linked to an increased risk of cancer in dogs.  

Bladder Cancer  

Research suggests being around lawns treated with weed killers can significantly increase a dog's risk of bladder cancer. The study even found signs of lawn chemicals in the urine of dogs living in homes where no chemicals were applied, which suggests these chemicals can stay on grass for a long time. 

While more research is needed to fully understand the cause and effect, it's a good idea to minimize your dog's exposure to lawn chemicals. Luckily, there are alternatives you can explore to keep your lawn healthy and your dog safe. Talk to your local gardening store or a lawn care service specializing in eco-friendly methods. They can advise you on things like organic fertilizers, natural weed control solutions, and aeration techniques that can promote a healthy lawn without harsh chemicals. 

Tick and Mosquito Yard Sprays  

While tick and mosquito yard sprays can help reduce the risk of insect-borne diseases, it's essential to choose products carefully and follow application instructions to ensure your dog's safety. Look for pet-safe, natural ingredients like cedar oil, lemongrass, or rosemary oil, and avoid products containing harmful chemicals such as pyrethrins or organophosphates. Always keep your dog off treated areas until the product has dried completely. 

Mulch Matters  

While cocoa bean mulch may smell delightful to you, it can be deadly for your dog. This seemingly harmless landscaping material contains theobromine, a toxin found in chocolate that can be fatal to pets. Play it safe and opt for pet-friendly mulch options, or skip it altogether if your dog is prone to nibbling on everything in sight

Plant Dangers 

Your backyard may look like a doggy paradise, but it can harbor unsuspected dangers in the form of plants. Be on the lookout for these toxic culprits: the infamous trio of poison ivy, oak, and sumac which cause itchy, blistering rashes. Azaleas and rhododendrons, with their beautiful blooms, are toxic if eaten and can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. Lily of the valley, a spring favorite, is poisonous throughout and can cause serious heart problems and stomach upset in dogs. Oleander's vibrant flowers are also toxic, and ingesting them can cause digestive issues, heart trouble, and even coma. And lastly, beware of mushrooms – many wild varieties are poisonous, and there's no easy way to tell the good from the bad.  

Toad Troubles  

Those cute, hopping amphibians in your yard may harbor a dangerous secret. Certain species of toads, like those of the Bufo genus, secrete toxins from their skin glands that can cause severe illness in dogs who decide to investigate with their mouths. Symptoms can range from gastrointestinal issues to life-threatening neurological and cardiovascular problems. If your dog has a run-in with a toad, rinse its mouth with water and contact your veterinarian right away. 

Dog in Lawn

Pest Repellents and Baits  

From rats and snails to flies and moles, homeowners often turn to pest repellents and baits to keep critters at bay. However, these products can contain highly toxic compounds that put your dog's life at risk. 


Our lawns can sometimes attract unwanted guests like rats and mice. While getting rid of these pests is important, the rodenticides used to target them can be dangerous for our dogs. These baits often contain anticoagulants, which can cause internal bleeding, or neurotoxins that lead to brain swelling. If your dog ingests even a small amount, it can result in severe symptoms and even death. 

The best way to keep rodents out of your yard is to make it an unwelcoming environment. This means eliminating any potential food sources or hiding places for them. Store trash cans securely, keep your yard clear of debris, and trim back any overgrown vegetation around the perimeter of your house. These steps will discourage rodents from setting up camp in your yard, keeping your dog safe. 

Snail and Slug Baits (Molluscicides)

Those slimy snails and pesky slugs might be munching on your favorite plants, but the baits used to control them can be deadly for your dog. Snail and slug baits, also known as molluscicides, often contain a chemical called metaldehyde. Metaldehyde, a common ingredient in these baits, can cause tremors, seizures, and liver failure in dogs. Signs of toxicity can appear within minutes to hours after ingestion and include increased heart rate, nervousness, panting, drooling, wobbliness, and seizures.   

Fortunately, there's a pet-safe alternative for keeping your garden free of mollusks. Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring, non-toxic powder that effectively eliminates many crawling insects, including snails and slugs. Made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms, diatomaceous earth works by dehydrating the pests' soft bodies. It's safe for use around pets and children when used according to the label instructions. 

Fly Baits  

Those pesky flies can be a nuisance for everyone, but the fly baits used to control them can be a serious health hazard for your dog. Fly baits often contain methomyl, a highly toxic insecticide that can cause a range of dangerous side effects in dogs, including increased salivation, tearing, urinary incontinence, diarrhea, gastrointestinal cramping, and vomiting. Even a small amount of fly bait ingestion can be life-threatening for your dog.  

Luckily, several pet-safe methods effectively keep flies at bay. Create a natural fly control zone with apple cider vinegar traps and fragrant herbs like basil, lavender, peppermint, and rosemary. These herbs repel flies while attracting insectivorous birds. Strategically place sticky fly traps out of pet reach. Most importantly, maintain a clean yard by emptying trash cans, picking up pet waste, and sealing compost bins to reduce fly breeding grounds and create a bird-friendly environment. 

Mole and Gopher Baits  

Those pesky moles and gophers can wreak havoc on your lawn with their tunnels. While traps and baits are common methods for controlling these critters, they can be dangerous for your dog. Mole and gopher baits often contain zinc phosphide, which is poisonous and can cause serious health problems in dogs, including severe vomiting, abdominal pain, and difficulty breathing. Ingestion can be life-threatening, with symptoms appearing within minutes to just a few hours. 

The good news is that your dog can actually be part of the solution! The scent of a dog can be a natural deterrent to moles and gophers. Encouraging your dog to spend time in different areas of your yard can help keep these pests at bay. 

In addition to your dog's natural repelling power, you can explore other safe methods like installing underground fencing. This physical barrier creates a blockade that deters moles and gophers from entering your desired areas. Another approach is to use castor oil-based repellents. These repellents have a scent that moles and gophers find unpleasant, encouraging them to move elsewhere. 

Safeguarding Your Dog in the Yard: The Power of "Leave It" 

While creating a safe haven for your furry friend in your backyard is a priority, there can be hidden dangers lurking amongst the sunshine and fresh grass. From tempting yet toxic plants to curious critters, these unexpected hazards can turn playtime into a trip to the vet. 

One of the most effective ways to keep your dog safe in the yard is by training them with the "leave it" command. This powerful tool goes beyond simply memorizing tricks – it teaches your dog to disengage from interesting but potentially harmful objects. 

Safeguarding Your Dog's Health with Pet Insurance  

As a devoted pet parent, you want to protect your furry friend from all dangers, but accidents and illnesses can happen when you least expect them. That's where pet insurance comes in. By investing in a comprehensive policy, you can have peace of mind knowing that your dog will receive top-notch veterinary care without the financial burden. 

Take little Guy, a Boston Terrier with a curious streak. Exploring his porch, Guy encountered a toad, leading to a trip to the emergency vet for toad toxicity. Thankfully, Guy's family had Embrace Pet Insurance. Embrace helped cover a significant portion of the treatment costs, allowing them to focus on Guy's recovery. 

Beyond the financial support, every Embrace policy includes access to our 24/7 PawSupport helpline. PawSupport connects you with veterinary professionals anytime, day or night. If you notice strange behavior after your dog spends time in the yard, or if you're unsure if a plant or insect is poisonous, a quick call to PawSupport can provide immediate guidance and help you decide on the best course of action. 

Cherishing Summer Moments with Your Furry Best Friend  

As the summer sun warms our hearts and our lawns, it's essential to remember that our dogs depend on us to keep them safe from hidden dangers. By staying informed and taking proactive measures, we can create a summer filled with love, laughter, and unforgettable memories. So, as you step out into the yard with your faithful friend by your side, take a moment to appreciate the joy they bring to your life and pledge to always protect them, come what may.