A golf-course green lawn probably is not safe for your dog. Achieving that emerald luster requires applications of fertilizer, herbicide, fungicide, lime, grub treatment, insecticide, and other growth stimulators. These treatments pose little threat to humans walking across the lawn wearing shoes that are removed before entering the home. Dogs’ paws are fully exposed to grass, a surface with which he is in contact several times a day. They frequently lick their paws to clean them.
A number of dangerous side effects result from exposure to lawn care products. Immediate signs that your dog has ingested toxins include: diarrhea, foaming at the mouth, stomach ache, excessive hyperactivity, drooping or glazed-over eyes, and profuse panting. Long-term effects of using products that contain toxins can range from seizures to death. Some believe that health conditions such as bladder cancer are aggravated by lawn care products. Breeds known for intense self-hygiene are especially susceptible. Female Scottish Terriers, for instance, are known for frequent preening and paw licking.
Now the dilemma: you do not want your dog to lick up harmful toxins, but you also want a presentable yard. Can you have it all? Yes and no. A true organic lawn care program replaces chemicals with cultural practices, such as aeration, dethatching, and applying topdressing. No commercial lawn product, even if it is advertised as “organic,” is ideal for a dog owners’ lawn. There are less potent options—liquids tend to be more potent than granular formulations, for instance. But you are not 100-percent toxin free with any substance or service.
Some practical solutions:
Only treat the front yard and forbid your dog to enter this area.
Choose manure-based organic products for topdressing rather than commercial counterparts. Plant native grasses and stop worrying about your curb appeal.
Seek out purely organic lawn care brands (The side effect from manure-based products is a distinct cow-farm smell for a few days following application, but the substance is toxin-free.)
For more information, contact your local university extension office to gather more information on cultural practices so you can prevent rather than treat lawn disease and, therefore, maintain a green lawn without using chemicals. Your dog will thank you for it.
[sidebar] Safe Walks in Treated Neighborhoods [Wendy]
Just because you decide to not use chemical lawn care products does not mean your dog is 100-percent protected from exposure. If you live in a neighborhood where curb appeal matters—and this describes most suburban subdivisions—be careful where your dog wanders during walks. Keep him on the sidewalk. Scope out “safe” lawn areas for him to eliminate in advance. If the lawn looks especially green and manicured, steer clear. Toxin build-up happens over time. Take steps to avoid treated areas to protect your dog’s long-term health.