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What You Need to Know About Those Pesky Pesticides

Dog wearing a sweater with a hood

Hello all! I wanted to write a few words on lawn treatments and how they can affect your pets.

Everyone loves springtime, especially in the northeast. We can finally shed our winter coats (no pun intended), kick off our snow boots and breathe in the fresh air without our nose hairs freezing. The trees around us begin to bloom, the birds return home from their vacay down south, and the grass turns from a sickly brown to a happy, healthy green. And look and those amazing yellow flowers up ahead… oh wait, thats a pesticide warning sign. We all know those signs, the ones warning not to let kids or pets play on the marked yard for at least 24 hours after putting down a treatment. Before I know it, I’m reigning in my group of pups, watching carefully for any wandering paws that may find their way onto the treated grass.

As someone who was uninvolved with lawn maintenance growing up, and who now rents and is not responsible for our little patch of grass, I didn’t know much about what these signs meant or the severity of their warning. I decided to do some research, and put my findings into writing for those who may need a brush up or a crash course about these pesticides.

Whether your pet is simply walking through treated grass, rolling in it, or eating in it, they are attaching these chemicals to their body. They then come inside your home and spread these chemicals to all of their usual spots- their bed, your couch, your bed, the carpet etc.. These chemicals actually last much longer indoors because they are not exposed to the necessary sunlight and water required to break them down, meaning that your pet is now stuck in a cycle of being surrounded by a harmful chemicals (or ingesting them). Common signs to look for if your pet has come in contact with lawn treatments are: vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory issues, and skin rash. If your pet is showing any of these symptoms after being exposed to pesticides, it is recommended to bring them for treatment by your veterinarian immediately. It turns out that they are able to monitor the level of pesticides within your pet by taking urine and blood samples. It is also very important for them to monitor your pets kidney and liver functions, as well as other major organs.

Here is the tricky part- it is our job as pet owners to be diligent this time of year in making sure our pets do not come in contact with these harmful chemicals. There are a number of safe treatments that we can use for our own yard, but we cannot necessarily convince our neighbors to use the same products. There is always the possibility of wind actually blowing chemicals from their yard onto yours, so even if you are doing your best to be safe, it is important to keep an eye on how those around us treat their grass. Also, those lovely yellow signs posted up and down the sidewalks this time of year usually have a space that lets passers by know what day and time the treatment took place. This way, pet owners and parents know if it has been 24 hours since the treatment went down, therefore when they can allow their pets or kids onto the grass. (I’m sure you have noticed that this info is not always filled out, which leaves us guessing the safety of the grass.)

However, a simple Google search can show that it is recommended to wait AT LEAST 48 hours before stepping on treated grass. Why do the signs suggest 24?! These signs are mostly posted to protect companies/homeowners from legal issues if a person/animal becomes sick as a result of not knowing their lawn had been treated. I have no clue why they don’t just say 48 hours instead of 24 to be extra safe. All it takes is a glance at the grass and you can see small pesticide grains still unabsorbed by the grass.

If you live in a neighborhood whose inhabitants typically treat their lawns with harmful chemicals, it is best to get your pet into a routine of being wiped down after each time going outside in the spring. This includes their coat, ears and nose (especially on those who enjoy sniffing, their faces are right up in the grass), and paws. This can be done with a washcloth and warm water, just be sure to wash the washcloth or swap it out frequently. When cleaning the paws, be sure to get in between their toes and pads, as these areas are like Velcro to pesticide grains.

We all want our pets to be safe and healthy, and we spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on their health care each year. In order to avoid costly vet bills and lots of discomfort for your pet, it is best to be proactive when it comes to pesticide poisoning. If your pet is not comfortable being wiped down after a walk, frequent bathing/brushing may also help. Keep an eye on those pesky pesticide signs, and always mentally add an additional 24 hours to their warnings. Better safe than sorry! Have a wonderful weekend!