Oct 6, 2010

Beware of Lawn Care Products - Protect Your Pet

Golf Green.Image via Wikipedia

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:

[bulleted list]

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.

Keep a Two Minute Pet Health Journal - You Could Need it One Day

ConivaImage by AxsDeny via Flickr

A health journal is a valuable tool for keeping track of your dog’s total health history, not just his vaccination records. If you’ve ever had to give your own health history to a new doctor, you’ll recall how difficult it is to remember the specifics for yourself; remembering it for your dog can be even harder.

Keeping a record of your dog’s health history along with notes about his development and activity can help you and your vet track problems. Having a well-maintained health journal will help when transitioning between vets if you move, too.

Creating a health journal doesn’t have to be a big project. You’ll need a spiral notebook or binder with pockets in which you can save all the notes the vet sends home and space to take your own notes. Keep track of vet visits and outcomes, changes in diet or activity, illnesses—anything that relates to your dog’s health. Be thorough, and date each entry. If you like, you can use dividers for each year, or even each month within a year.

No matter how you choose to format your journal, it will be an asset for you and your dog in keeping him healthy and happy.

Make Your Own Doggie Soap Bars (with picture inside!!)

Handmade SoapImage via Wikipedia

This all-natural soap is a fun craft project and great for your dog’s skin. It also makes a perfect gift for a dog owner. The process is so easy that you’ll soon be able to personalize this recipe, adding your own special touches.

We use the melt-and-pour method of soapmaking, which is the least time consuming and can be done in the microwave. Consult with the expert at a natural foods store when selecting your essential oils. Some oils can irritate the skin; citronella, tea tree, and/or lemongrass essential oils will help repel fleas and ticks.


All-natural, unscented, 100% olive oil (castile) soap (see the appendix for sources)

Essential oil(s) of your choice

Exfoliants (optional), such as citrus peel or steel-cut oatmeal—anything that is all natural, nontoxic, and not sharp

Clean soap molds (generally available from soap suppliers in standard or fun shapes, or use your own plastic containers)

Microwaveable container, such as a large glass measuring cup

Kitchen thermometer


1. Chop the soap into chunks and place in the microwaveable container.

2. Melt the soap in the microwave. Each microwave behaves differently, so start at half power and heat for 2–4 minutes at a time, stirring between stages. You do not want to overheat or burn the soap, so check often until you know how quickly it melts. The soap base should be completely melted and at a temperature between 155 and 165°F (68-74°C). Once you have reached this temperature, stir it again slowly to make sure it is uniform, then let it sit for a few moments, allowing any air bubbles to rise to the top.

3. Add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance and stir slowly, avoiding creating more air bubbles.

4. Add exfoliants, if desired. Again, stir slowly to avoid introducing air bubbles. It is recommended that all your additives, including essential oils and exfoliants, not exceed 2% of the entire soap solution.

5. Pour the soap into the molds. Best results will be obtained if the soap is poured into molds at approximately 150–155°F (66–68°C). Pour very slowly to avoid creating air bubbles. Once poured, the soap bars should be handled carefully and left to cool completely, about 24 hours.

6. Remove the bars from the molds and wrap them immediately to retain an attractive appearance. The soap bars should be stored at temperatures between 40 and 86°F (4–30°C).

Custom Dog Character Soaps

Clear soaps can be personalized with a photograph of the recipient dog. Cover the photograph with plastic coating, such as cling wrap, packing tape, or laminating sheets. Fill the soap mold halfway and allow it to set. Place the photograph on the soap, then fill the mold with more melted soap.

You can also make soap on a rope so that when you are washing your dog you never have to worry about losing the soap or a bottle falling over. Just drill a hole in the finished bar, thread onto a rope, and tie a knot.

15 Minute Doggie Makeover!

Dog makeoverImage by Eric B├ęgin via Flickr

Your dog is having a bad hair day. Her long hair is matted, scraggly, and feeling all-around yucky. She isn’t nearly as confident when she strolls down the street for daily walks. Usually, she struts around your block like it is her personal red carpet. Her nails scratch on the kitchen floor when she walks across it. You blame the favorite chicken broth-soaked rawhides for her offensive breath, but the truth is you have been slacking on her oral hygiene.

You can clean up your dog’s act in fifteen minutes, and restore her queenlike confidence. Maintenance in between grooming appointments will keep her healthy as well. Clean fur carries fewer allergens and is softer to touch. Some dogs actually welcome the cleaning, knowing their reward will be more lap time. Follow this regimen for a quick makeover that will please you both.

Shampoo and condition – Wash smaller dogs in the kitchen sink if you have a handy spray attachment. Medium and large dogs must be bathed in the family bathtub or laundry tub. Always use lukewarm water so you don’t burn the dog or dry out her skin. Test water temperature on the inside of your arm before soaking the dog.

Towel off and blow dry – Absorb excess water from your dog’s coat with a bath towel or chamois. Long-haired dogs can benefit from a “blow out” with a special dog hair dryer. This tool speeds the drying process and allows you to simultaneously remove tangles with a comb.

Brush teeth – Using a dog tooth brush and toothpaste give your dog’s pearly whites a good cleaning. You can find varieties flavored like peppermint, beef, and chicken. (See Day XX for more details on oral hygiene.)

Clean ears and eyes – Squeaky clean ears and bright eyes are signs of a healthy dog. You can purchase prepackaged, presoaked ear pads and wipes for convenience (see Day xx for detailed cleaning instructions). Cleaning solution also comes in gels and liquids that you dispense and massage into the ear. Eye wipe pads also make the job of cleaning the “sleepers” that collect in the corner of your dog’s peepers. You may also use drops. Check with your vet for recommended eye and ear solutions.

Short-haired dog owners get off easy. A quick rinse, shampoo, and shake-off later and their dogs are “groomed.” Long-haired dogs require more maintenance, and because their fur tangles easily and takes longer to dry, you may opt to use a doggy hair dryer to speed the process. Never use a human hair dryer on your dog. An exception: when the blow dryer is on a cool setting and you are constantly moving it back and forth, dispersing the air along the dog’s body. Ideally, purchase a special blow dryer tool from a catalogue or pet store. Dog blow dryers are safe, effective, and especially designed to not burn the dog or dry out her skin.

Two Minute Pet Tip © 2010 Wendy Nan Rees

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Two Minute Pet Tip ©2014 Wendy Nan Rees

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Wendy Nan Rees uses her 25 years of expertise to answer pet health questions and offer expert advice for pet lovers.

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