Backyard Safety with Your Pet – The 101

How Pet Safe is Your Backyard?

Pennsylvania has always been a pet loving state, with statistics indicating that over half a million of us seek the companionship of a dog, cat, or other furry, spiny, or ‘slimy but friendly’ creature in our homes. Around 400,000 households have at least one dog vs 244,000 households with at least one kitty. Statistics also show that we love our yards; even city dwelling millennials dream of having a large home in the suburbs with a backyard lawn on which to have barbecues, socialize with friends, and play fetch with Fido.

If you are lucky enough to have a beautiful, spacious backyard, are you sure it is safe for your dog or cat? If you already know how to puppy proof your home, why not ensure the yard is just as safe?

Picking the Right Plants

Many pet owners are surprised to find out that common flowers such as azaleas, rhododendrons, many types of lily or daffodils, are toxic to cats and dogs, so much so that ingestion of just a small amount can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, and sometimes, even death. If you have bought a new house and are not sure about which plants are in the yard, help from a trusted gardener will enable you to weed out potential culprits.

Fencing Fido In

Dogs have a natural digging instinct and some might try to escape to the Great Outdoors if they are bored or alone in the yard or backyard. To stop this from happening make sure your fence is sturdy and that it reaches all the way down; flexible dogs are often able to worm their way out of even the smallest gap.

Bury chicken wire deep into the soil beneath the fence or better yet, consider building a stone or paved path between the fence and the grass, so your dog has no soil to dig up when escape is on his mind.

Another unsuspected danger for dogs in the yard is a gate that is easy to open. A self-closing system will ensure your pooch can’t just slide the latch to the side and escape. If you prefer a manual latch, make sure it is too difficult for your dog to manoeuvre.

If your dog is a digger, build him a little play area in your yard by digging up soil and filling it with sand. Place his favorite toys under the sand and watch him go!

Also, ensure that your dog isn’t digging because of boredom. Make sure he is physically and mentally challenged through exercise and Kong style toys and puzzles, which will keep him interested in more useful pursuits. Walk him regularly, even if he is a yard dog, to ensure mental stimulation and exploration! Hire a pet nanny if you can’t find time regularly! 

Ticks, Fleas, Insects (and Snakes!)

Dogs and cats love to roll around in the grass, which means they can be bitten by insects or infested by ticks and fleas. The first priority is to keep the grass shortly mowed and clear of clutter.

Make sure your pets are protected with a pet-friendly flea and tick repellent that is free of harsh toxins such as pyrethoids, which have sadly caused too many pet deaths. Go with what your vet recommends and talk to them about natural possibilities.

Many dog and cat owners use diluted essential oils such as eucalyptus or peppermint to repel parasites, but be very careful, since some essential oils can cause harm. For instance, geranium and citrus oils can be dangerous for  cats, while some oils (such as cedar, citronella or pennyroyal) should never be used on pregnant animals.

The one oil cats seem to be okay with is neem oil, which can be added to shampoo (one teaspoon of oil per cup of pet shampoo is usually okay, according to passhealthfoods.com).

For dogs, typical solutions contain around five drops of essential oils like geranium, lemon, or lavender, with one teaspoon of carrier oil. When rubbing the oils onto your pets, avoid the eyes, nose, mouth, genitals and anal area.

Neem juice and citrus essential oils are also excellent to spray on plants to repel insects, but if you have cats, avoid anything but neem in most cases.

Beware of the Sun

Dogs can suffer from heatstroke if let out in the sun too long. Unless your backyard has tall trees that can provide plenty of shade, build your dog a wooden dog house where he can hide from the burning UV rays during peak hours of sun.

Make sure there is a fresh bowl of water out and place his house far away from his ‘potty spot’.

For most Americans, a pet is as much a member of the family as humans are. Make sure their favorite place to lounge contains no toxins that can harm their health, and keep them inside to avoid the risk of loss or injury. Finally, adapt your yard to the seasons, making sure Fido or Kitty always have a cool spot to chill out in.

Photo by The Poodle Gang on Unsplash

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