Pet Owners Should Exercise Caution when Landscaping

Aug. 2, 2013

LINCOLN, Neb. — Backyards can provide a great place for pets to exercise, but owners need to be careful about what they place there.

When landscaping, it is important to take the health and safety of companion animals into consideration.

"Provide turf if you have dogs so that they can run and play," said Kim Todd, University of Nebraska-Lincoln associate professor in agronomy and horticulture and extension landscape specialist.

Todd cautioned people to avoid mulching gardens with cocoa bean mulch, as cocoa beans can be unhealthy to some animals.

Do some research before planting. Many plants can cause a rash or other skin irritations in animals. Many of them are also toxic when ingested or inhaled. Lily pollen can cause acute respiratory failure in cats.

"Toxicity to animals is similar to toxicity for human beings," Todd said. "There are some things that are almost universally toxic and others to which there are individual sorts of responses."

When using herbicides or pesticides, it is important to make sure that the chemicals used are safe for pets, said Laura Hardin, UNL's Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine coordinator.

"Very carefully read the label and follow directions," Hardin said.

Dogs also should be provided with plenty of drinking water and shade if possible. Hardin also recommends a child-size pool for dogs to play in.

"Dogs cool off a lot better if they can get a little bit wet," Hardin said. She added that water helps cool off a dog's sensitive feet.

Todd added that owners shouldn't assume that animals know what is safe to play in or with.

"They are not going to know what they should and should not do unless you have taught them that," Todd said. "The things you are really concerned about shouldn't be in landscapes to begin with." 

More information is available on the July 11 episode of "Backyard Farmer," at

Kim Todd
Associate Professor
Agronomy and Horticulture

Laura Hardin
Assistant Professor of Practice
Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences

Heather Haskins
Student Writer

Dan Moser
IANR News Service