Gardening With Pets: What to Plant and Avoid For Pet Health

Puppy in the Garden

The backyard and garden of your home can be a little slice of heaven for your doggies and other pets.

From the trees to gardens and perhaps even a swimming pool, the backyard is full of land to run around, holes to burrow, flowers to smell, plants to eat, and soft grassy knolls to lie on during a lazy afternoon in the sun.

For a family with pets, a backyard can be either wonderful or quite harmful for your furry ones. When planting your gardens and designing your backyards, make sure you are keeping pet health in mind. Here are some plants and flowers to avoid or use, as well as some other tips for your pet friendly garden.

Plants to Avoid

Buttercups: Anything in the buttercup family such as hellebores, columbines, and delphiniums are toxic to pets and harmful to pet health. Foxgloves and Lily of the Valley are both toxic for doggies as well.

Cocoa mulch: This natural mulch made of cocoa bean shells, is a by-product of chocolate production. It is commonly used in landscaping and can be quite good for plants, but pet families should use an alternative. If eaten in large quantities, cocoa mulch can be toxic to pets (and chocolate in general).

Cycads: These low growing palm trees, which are used indoors and outdoors, can be toxic to the liver of dogs and have a habit of chewing on their soft roots. It is best to avoid these altogether.

Lilies: While brunfelsia and cycads have not been known to cause problems in cat health, lilies are especially harmful to them. Once ingested, cats develop symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, depression, and will stop eating altogether.

Kolanchoe and Oleander:  This house plant is known to be toxic. It 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.

Plants to Use in Your Garden

Edible Flowers: The safest flowers for your pets are the ones that are also completely edible for humans. These include violets, pansies, and roses. Flowers that stem from vegetables, such as squash, are also ok for pups.

Marigold: One of the most famous varieties of marigold is called “Lemon Gem” for its lemon-like color and yummy lemon flavor.

Herbs: Culinary herbs like parsley, oregano, sage, thyme, mint, and rosemary are all safe for dogs. Apart from not being toxic, they also pack a strong taste, so your pets will likely avoid them. Aromatics herbs such as lavender and mint are also a great choice.

Fruits: A strawberry patch, apple trees, and raspberry canes are all wonderful dog-friendly additions to your garden. Dogs can learn to pick berries or other fruit if they acquire a taste for it, so don’t be surprised if your harvest is severely lacking at “dog-height.”

More Ways to Make Your Garden Pet Friendly

Always plant organic:  It is best to error on the side of caution and only use organic or nontoxic garden products. Take a careful look at what you are using on your lawn and flowers and avoid chemical herbicides or pesticides.

Make use of shady areas: A shaded sandbox or sand pit is very pet friendly, particularly as many dogs love to dig out a cool space to lie in during the warmer months. If you are not a fan of sand, adding a layer of wood chips to a small area is an ideal lazy afternoon spot for Fido.  The soft and cushy feel of wood chips is very comfortable for the little pups.

Keep on the lookout for mushrooms: Fall and spring and are the big mushroom seasons. While 99% of mushrooms have little or no toxicity, the other 1% that are highly toxic can cause life-threatening problems in pets.  This is a small percentage but, unfortunately, most of the toxic mushrooms are difficult to distinguish from nontoxic ones, so it is best to keep all mushrooms away as much as you can if you have a house with pets.

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