Backyard Toxins & Hazards

With decent weather finally here on a consistent basis, I’m sure most of you are as busy as I’ve been cleaning up the yard and doing some gardening. I took a look around my backyard from a dog’s perspective and realized that there are a surprising number of things out there that could harm a dog if they were ingested. Given most dogs’ interest in chewing on things or eating things, I thought I’d provide a list of some common things that can be dangerously toxic to pets in the backyard.

Acorns & Oak Tree Parts

Acorns and leaves (or water in which these parts of the tree have soaked/rotted) can be toxic to dogs. Bloody diarrhea and kidney damage are the result of this ingestion. We’re not sure what chemical in the acorns and leaves is toxic.

Cocoa Bean Shell Mulch

This mulch is made from grinding up cocoa beans and other unused parts of the beans/plants. It can contain high levels of chemicals called theobromie and other methylxanthines. Caffeine is also a component. Vomiting, diarrhea, tremors/seizures, high blood pressure and high heart rate are signs of toxicity. Death can result from these signs.

Other types of Mulch

Eating mulch is a bad idea, but dogs show up at the hospital every summer having done so. The pieces can cause an obstruction in the intestines, vomiting, and diarrhea. I also saw a dog a few years back that had eaten a stick of some sort that passed through the GI tract but got wedged into the rectum sideways. This was excruciatingly painful for the dog. We had to anesthetize the dog and cut the stick in half to fish it out of the dog’s butt. No fun for any of us!


Many types of flowers are toxic. The toxins vary from tiny crystals that make the mouth painful or cause GI upset to toxins that damage the kidneys or heart or central nervous system. The ASPCA web page has a toxic plant guide. I’ll list some of the more common ones here: azalea, most bulbs, lilies, foxglove, hydrangea, morning glory seeds, rhododendron, garlic, onions, potato vines, green tomatoes or tomato plants, rhubarb leaves, yew bushes, palms, amanita mushrooms, rhubarb leaves, yew bushes/plants, lily of the valley, castor bean, and oleander. There are LOTS more, so don’t take this list to be comprehensive.
Tiger lily


I see a lot of diarrhea and vomiting from dogs that have consumed water from these sources. I’m not certain if a lot of that is due to parasites like giardia, duck or goose excrement, or something else. In any event, try to keep the dogs from guzzling water from your koi pond. Chemicals that are used to kill algae can also be toxic/dangerous.

Swimming Pools

Chemicals used in pools can be very strong acids or alkalis. These chemicals cause burns and tissue damage. If your pet has consumed pool chemicals, do not induce vomiting! What burns going down burns coming up. You’re best off to contact the vet for help and advice.

Landscaping Items

Landscape cloth, clays, sand, and rocks can all be issues for dogs and cats. Keep pets away from your landscaping projects until everything is finished. Better safe than sorry!

While it may seem that the yard is too dangerous for pets, simply watching them carefully can allow you and your dog or cat to enjoy the summer weather without any concerns. For dogs that simply can’t be stopped, a basket muzzle may be an option to prevent some ingestions.

Thanks for reading!


1 Comment

Filed under toxicology

One response to “Backyard Toxins & Hazards

  1. Chris

    We have an oak tree in the backyard. Ellie’s mission in life is to herd the squirrels. I rake up the broken acorns from time to time, but I’ll be much more diligent about that after reading this post. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s