There are many fabulous things about the summer – popsicles, the pool, and fireworks are just a few that come to mind. With the warmer temperatures, though, come some downsides, as well.
At Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital the creepy crawly things of summer top our list. From ants and mosquitoes, to fleas to hornet nests, pest numbers increase with the sunshine.
While the urge to eradicate these things is real, it is important to remember that our dogs and cats share an environment with them and that killing some bugs can harm pets, too.
Thankfully, pet safe pesticides and control options do exist.
The Problem with Pesticides
Traditionally, people utilize pesticides to rid themselves of unwanted visitors in their home or yard. From insects to rodents to even weeds, most people have some need for these chemicals.
Dogs and cats are particularly at risk of harm due to pesticide exposure because of the ways they experience the world. They are much more likely to ingest or lick something strange, clean residue off of their fur, or poke their nose into an area to investigate a new odor.
Depending on the pesticide itself, a variety of effects can occur. Symptoms of pesticide exposure in pets can include:
- Loss of appetite
- High body temperature/hyperthermia
- Muscle spasms/twitching
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
Some pesticide exposures can even be fatal. Certain rodent baits can cause fatal bleeding up to several weeks after ingestion and metaldehyde slug baits can cause seizure activity and death.
Pet Safe Pesticides and Alternatives
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that we are forced to choose between our furry family and living with unwanted guests. There are pet safe pesticides and alternative control means that can be quite effective.
- Use non-toxic options on your plants such as Bacillus thuringiensis to control caterpillars and other unwanted garden pests
- Eliminate ideal environments for undesirable guests (standing water for mosquitoes, food sources for rodents)
- Use plants like lemongrass, catnip, sage, and mint to discourage mosquitoes
- If you do need to use a chemical pesticide, clear your pet from the area and keep them in a safe location until the risk of exposure is gone (spray is dry for instance)
- Avoid pellet-style pesticides to avoid accidental ingestion
- Ants? Try spraying some lemon essential oil & water along entryways to deter their entry. Major problem? Set out a plate of equal parts powdered sugar and baking soda – problem will seem to get worse at first, but over a few days ants will be lured by the sugar but take baking soda back to their home to destroy the whole colony
- Keep insecticides (and all chemicals) out of reach of pets
- Utilize recommended prescription flea, tick, heartworm, and intestinal parasite treatments
- Look for non-toxic pet-friendly lines of pesticides and weed control
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do as a pet owner when it comes to pesticides is just to be aware. Know what products are in your home and what potential risks they have.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control maintains a great list of toxins on their website and offers consultations with veterinary toxicology experts for a fee if needed.
Pet safe pesticides and alternative solutions do exist. Being educated is half the battle. Make sure to know what you are up against and explore your options before bringing any old pesticide into your home environment.