Lawn chemicals, including fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, can be harmful to cats and dogs if they are not used and stored properly. Pets can suffer acute or chronic health problems when they come into contact with common lawn chemicals. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center lists garden and lawn chemicals among the top 10 pet poisons reported in 2009. Cat and dog owners should use lawn chemicals carefully to protect their pets from poisoning.
Chemical Hazards - Cats and dogs can ingest lawn chemicals when they eat treated plants before the chemicals have fully dried, or from licking their skin or paws after coming into contact with the chemicals. The Merck Veterinary Manual says that, although properly applied lawn chemicals do not pose much risk to pets when allowed to dry for the amount of time specified on the package, many cats and dogs are poisoned when they ingest chemicals that have spilled or that are improperly stored.
Potentially Dangerous Products - Many of the chemicals commonly used on lawns and gardens can be dangerous for cats and dogs. This includes nitrogen-based fertilizers, blood meal, rose fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides (especially those containing organophosphates), rodenticides, and slug and snail baits.
Symptoms of Poisoning - Symptoms of insecticide and fertilizer poisoning include excessive salivation and urination, muscle spasms and weakness, seizures and impaired breathing. Symptoms of herbicide poisoning include vomiting, weakness and an unsteady gait. Long-term exposure may cause cancer in dogs.
First-Aid - If a cat or dog has come into contact with improperly applied or stored lawn chemicals, monitor the animal carefully for symptoms of poisoning. Locate the packaging from the chemical if possible, then call a veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center for help in providing first-aid and to determine if the pet needs further veterinary treatment. Do not induce vomiting in the pet without specific guidance from a veterinarian.
Prevention - The best way to protect cats and dogs from the dangers of lawn chemicals is to apply and store the chemicals according to the directions on the package. Keep animals off a treated lawn for the specified amount of time. Carefully clean up spilled chemicals and store chemicals in pet-proof containers. Warn neighbors when applying pesticides so they can keep their cats and dogs off the treated lawn until the chemicals have dried.