Wednesday, April 21, 2010 3:42 PM

Protecting Pets from Outdoor Environmental Toxins


The great outdoors presents many opportunities for pets to become exposed to poisonous substances. The arrival of spring brings with it some particular hazards that dog and cat owners should be aware of, as well:

Cocoa hull mulch: Two people have emailed me recently regarding this hazardous material. Theobromine, the ingredient in chocolate and cocoa that makes it so poisonous to cats and dogs, is also present in this mulch made from the hulls of the cocoa bean. Dogs have died after ingesting this product, and it is equally dangerous for cats. If you must mulch your gardens, use another type; there are many alternatives.

Compost heaps: Some dogs can't seem to resist diving in and sampling the contents of these piles, newly visible after a winter of snow cover. Some veterinarians call this "garbage gut": The dog becomes ill after rooting around and finding a few not-completely composted delicacies. Usually they recover without permanent damage, but a trip to the vet is usually in order. A similar, more dangerous problem occurs when dogs ingest the carcasses of animals that died during the winter. Their decomposing bodies were partly frozen, but are now able to rot away with the warmer weather. The smell often attracts free-roaming dogs, who can develop pancreatitis and other symptoms of poisoning.

Pesticides: Lawn-care companies use a toxic brew to produce those green lawns, and animals who walk on freshly-treated surfaces can become ill. These chemicals can be absorbed through the pads of the feet, and cats will also lick these toxins off of their bodies. Insecticides used to control ants and termites are also dangerous to pets. Use natural alternatives whenever possible and don't allow your pets to roam onto neighbor's treated lawns.

Automotive fluids: Dogs and cats love to drink out of driveway puddles, but can get more than they bargained for when contaminants such as radiator fluid, oil and transmission fluid that leaked from parked vehicles are mixed in. Also, be sure to store these products on high shelves if your pets are allowed in your garage, since many pets actually like the taste of anti-freeze and may seek it out if they can smell it.

This list represents only a portion of the poisonous substances pets are exposed to in our modern life, and it's up to us to keep them safe. They look to us to protect them, so be aware of these outdoor toxins and take steps to protect your pet.

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Amanda
Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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