little girl wearing white and a white small fluffy dog playing on the grass

Dogs, Cats & Healthy Lawns: What You Need to Know To Keep Everyone Safe

Summer tends to be a time when lawn maintenance goes in overdrive. This may mean using weed killers and pesticides to help lawns look vibrant and lush. However, the chemicals used in these products are dangerously toxic to a dog's health. Good thing you don't have to compromise! Read on to learn some simple safety guidelines to help protect your pets this summer  and ensure you have a beautiful lawn.

white dog rolling on the grass

Ways to Keep Your Dogs, Cats and Family Safe on Your Lawn

You can take following preventive measures to save your pets and family from exposure to yard chemicals:

  • Keep your pets away from treated lawns.
  • When you treat your lawn with chemicals, keep your pets and children away from the garden for about two days or until it has been completely absorbed.
  • Choose dog and cat safe weed killer products 
  • Always wash the pet's lower body (the belly and legs area), assuming it came in contact with the treated grass.
  • Place the pet's water bowl, food bowl, and toys away from the grass area.
  • Eliminate fleas at the same time to prevent other illnesses
  • Avoid products that have carcinogenic chemicals in them.
  • You can also increase the growth of grass by using a pet friendly organic fertilizer.

Pet Health Hazards from Treated Lawns

After lawn chemicals are applied, it takes about 48 hours for them to be absorbed into the grass and soil. Your pets are breathing, walking, playing and eating in the treated grass. The treated lawn grass rubs their legs and bellies, the spots which they tend to lick. Pets that have their water bowls placed outdoors near or in the grass often spill it and drink it and, therefore, are exposed to toxic chemicals.

Another hazard: chemicals can get transferred from chemically treated lawns to untreated lawns through wind or run-off water. They then contaminate our pets that pass nearby or through the treated yard. And then from the pets, the chemicals get transferred to people or other pets. The risks of exposure are huge.

Exposure causes pets and people to become vulnerable to a range of diseases from bladder or thyroid cancers to diarrhea, dehydration, nausea, dermatitis, anorexia, breathing problems, hyperexcitability, depression, unconsciousness, and perhaps even death. And these are only a few of the health issues people and pets may face after exposure to chemicals.

two dogs laying in the grass

DOG Toxicity Symptoms

It's important to know and recognize the symptoms of toxicity that chemicals in pesticides and weed killers cause in dogs. After ingesting these toxic chemicals, the dog will immediately start vomiting, panting, shivering, and breathing heavily. Your dog may feel stomach discomfort and pain or may suffer from diarrhea.

Dog owners who believe in feeding raw food to their dogs may have an unexpected advantage. Due to a greater immunity built by less-processed raw foods, dogs can recover more easily from toxicity if you take them to the vet in time.

CAT Toxicity Symptoms

Symptoms of ingesting weed killers are similar in cats. These include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, difficulty breathing, lethargy or weakness, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, blood in vomit, saliva or stools and pale gums.

In case of toxicity, take your pet to the nearest vet as soon as possible. And be sure to take the chemicals your pet might have been exposed to, as knowing the source of the toxicity will help with more effective treatment.

Toxicity Treatments for Dogs and Cats

How can you help your pet feel better after exposure to harsh chemicals?  There are several things you can do to get them on the road to recovery. 

If they have diarrhea, a vet will usually advise you to limit their food intake for the first 12 hours to let the intestinal tract calm down. You should continue to have water available to keep them hydrated and help flush their system. 

Feed them boiled, plain chicken with rice or pasta, which is very easy on their digestive system.  Alternatively, the vet may prescribe a special diet to help them recover.  Always seek advice from your vet when feeding during recovery. 

We love this in-depth article from the American Kennel Club that outlines types of food to give pets in recovery as well as some of the best poop diagrams we've seen anywhere!!

And, of course, the best things that aid recovery are rest and lots of love from their humans. Those big hikes and ball chasing escapades will have to wait a few days. Your pet will likely let you know when they are ready to resume normal activity. 

gray tabby kitten in tall grass


We believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so we offer you some food for thought about alternative ways to have a lush lawn that don't include chemicals. 

Protect Your Family and Pets by Switching to Chemical Free Lawn Maintenance

Did you know that organic lawns actually require less water than lawns treated with chemicals and pesticides? According to This Old House, the trick is to water infrequently and deeply to train those roots to spread more deeply into the soil.

Experts from suggest replacing your grass with a native turf grass, like Kentucky bluegrass or St. Augustine grass, or an organic grass blend, which you can find at your local hardware store.

Consider also switching to an organic fertilizer, which releases vital nutrients to the soil slowly and making it healthier. An organic fertilizer also makes your lawn more resilient and less hungry for fertilizer. 

And, add organic compost to your grass then give it a good, long drink of water. And when you mow your grass, leave the lawn clipping where they fall.  They will feed the grass as they decompose. Cool, right?

Author Paul Tukey is an organic lawn expert and has loads of excellent tips about having a lush lawn in his book The Organic Lawn Care Manual.  

Additional Advice & Readings

Research done by University of North Carolina and Purdue University shows how much dogs' urine was concentrated with lawn chemicals. In a study to evaluate how pesticides and weed killers can increase the chances of bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers, 19 of 25 dogs' urine was concentrated with lawn chemicals after the lawn received treatment. These chemicals were also found in 4 out of 8 dogs' urine whose owners did not get their garden treated.


Our best advice to readers is to continuously learn about how to prevent these chemicals from getting into your pets, kids, and yourself.  Here are a few of our favorite sources for more information:

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