How to Plant a Pet-Safe Garden

Red cat among the flowers.
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Growing a garden is one of the most relaxing and rewarding hobbies you can have - until your cat or dog eats something poisonous that you planted! But relax, there's no need to worry. You just need do a little research before you start planning your garden to be sure you know what's safe for your furry friends.

Some plants are toxic to dogs and cats

There are quite a few plants that are poisonous to your pets. Digesting these plants can cause reactions ranging from mild nausea to death, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Common flowers like daffodils, English ivy, hyacinth, iris, and several types of lilies can be fatal to your pet. Even seemingly harmless vegetables like potatoes and rhubarb can pose a risk to your furry friend.

Why are these plants toxic to pets?

Each plant contains different poisons. For instance, daffodils are poisonous because they contain lycorine, a chemical compound that triggers vomiting. According to UC Davis, eating the plant or even the bulb causes vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, heart rhythm abnormalities, and respiratory depression. Lily of the valley contain cardiac glycosides, sugars that affect how the heart contracts. Vomiting, diarrhea, decreased heart rate and heart rhythm abnormalities and seizures are caused by eating any part of this plant.

labrador dog running in camomiles
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The good news: plenty of plants are safe for cats and dogs!

There's way too many to mention, but our friends at the ASPCA have compiled a list of plants that are safe for your pets. Fill your yard with jasmine, beautiful African violets, decorative bamboo, Christmas cactus, and grape hyacinth with no worries. Phlox, an evergreen perennial, is also a lovely option. Planting an herb and vegetable garden is mostly a safe bet for your pets. Grow fragrant herbs like sage, cilantro and dill and tasty veggies like acorn and butternut squash, fennel, and many more. Your dog could even enjoy a meal of home-grown vegetables with you!

Be careful with fertilizers

While your garden may be harmless, you need to be mindful of how you fertilize your plants. Fertilizers can be deadly, according to UC Davis. Blood meal can cause vomiting, diarrhea and pancreas problems due to its high nitrogen content. Dogs are attracted to bone meal; when it's consumed in large amounts, bone meal blocks the gastrointestinal tract with its cement-like consistency. Some fertilizers contain organophosphates, including disulfoton, which can cause buildup of the neurotransmitter acetylcholin. This is deadly and causes all sorts of terrible health problems. Iron, a common addition to fertilizers causes a toxic iron overload if ingested. There's plenty of pet-safe fertilizers available - just make sure you read the package. Look for compost, manure, fish emulsion, seaweed, and even grass clippings to fertilize your garden.

Siamese cat and grey Cat relax with natural light in The garden
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Be careful with pest control

The biggest risk to your pets are the poisons used to control rats and slugs, according to this article from The Telegraph. These poisons are left in the open, and taste good to dogs. Cats are more finicky about what they eat, but you should still be cautious. It's a good idea to know the signs of a dog who has eaten rat poison. Don't worry, there's plenty of pet-safe options for pest control.