Pets & Pesticides
For all the joy, comfort and companionship they give, our beloved pets do not ask for much in return. Our job is to provide a safe and warm home or shelter, as well as good food, clean water and a place to exercise. We also take them for regular checkups at the vet, and do almost anything to keep them healthy and happy. And that means making sure they are not exposed to lawn and garden pesticides. These chemicals have known risks to domestic animals who are inadvertently exposed by engaging in normal behaviors, such as rolling in the grass and using their noses to investigate their outdoor world.
Here are some things you can do to keep your pet safe. Learn more about the science.
• Keep pets off lawns that display pesticide application warning signs. If neighbors spray their properties or use a chemical lawn service, try to keep your pets indoors during and for about a half-hour afterward to avoid airborne drift. Bring food and water bowls inside. If you maintain your own lawn please see Six Steps to an Organic Lawn.
• If your pet has been on a pesticide treated lawn, wash off their paws with a mild soap and water solution before they enter the house or they groom themselves. This will help to avoid accidental ingestion and possible contamination of carpeting, upholstered furniture and household dust.
• Keep lawns mowed and natural areas free of tall grasses and weeds to limit the chance of ticks coming into contact with your pet. Check your pet daily during tick season. Recently developed botanical formulations for outdoor tick (and flea) control seem to be both effective and low risk.
• Fleas are a nuisance and it’s best to keep your pet from getting them in the first place. If your pet spends time outdoors, groom them regularly with a flea comb, bathe them frequently, vacuum their indoor spaces daily and wash their bedding often to kill any larvae. If you have an indoor flea infestation, heat treatments are one of the most effective non-toxic solutions.
• Indoor pest control should be limited to bait stations, if possible. Baits should be placed in areas inaccessible to pets. If you decide to use a more aggressive form of pest control such as sprays or foggers, pets should be removed from the home for at least 24 hours and longer if possible. All of their bedding, toys and food dishes should be washed before using again. Try to avoid granular pesticides, as they are often mistaken for food by pets.
More about the Science
• Common lawn care pesticides contain chemicals that are known to pose a serious risk to your pet’s health, including several types of cancer, respiratory and reproductive problems, and endocrine disruption. Pesticide residues can remain on lawn surfaces (and leaves) for weeks or months, depending on rainfall and watering practices. Learn more about pesticides.
• Several peer-reviewed studies show that dogs exposed to 2,4-D, a common herbicide (weed killer) were 30% more likely to develop canine malignant lymphoma and had a significantly higher risk of developing bladder and testicular cancer. The risk increased with the number of applications. A significant exposure to any pesticide may result in shock or sudden death.
• Dogs and cats use their noses to explore their outdoor environment, inadvertently absorbing pesticides into their bodies through this mucous membrane pathway. Although both dogs and cats can absorb pesticides through licking their fur, cats are particularly vulnerable to this accidental ingestion due to their grooming habits.
• Secondary poisoning for both dogs and cats may occur if they hunt and eat mice, other small rodents or insects that have been intentionally poisoned with pesticides.
• Flea and tick control products, including powders, shampoos, sprays, topical creams and ointments, and collars, often contain insecticides which can be toxic to an animal’s nervous system and can cause other serious health problems. Veterinarians are aware of these risks and should be consulted before purchasing
• Direct contact with pesticides used for indoor pest control can also put your pets at risk. These include powders, granules, and “foggers.” Pesticide residues on carpets, furniture, and in the air can remain inside your home long after an application.
• Humans, especially children, can increase their own exposure to pesticides because of their close contact with their beloved companion pets.
Scientific Studies & Reports
Knapp, et al “Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs following home lawn chemical application”
University of Nebraska "Protecting Your Cats and Dogs from Pesticide Poisoning"
Takashima-Uebelhoer, et al. "Household chemical exposures and the risk of canine malignant lymphoma, a model for human non-Hodgkin's lymphoma"
Gautam, et al, "Bioaccumulation of pesticide contaminants in tissue matrices of dogs suffering from malignant canine mammary tumors in Punjab, India"