Go Play Outside

by | Apr 2021

Pug Playing in a Garden

Photo: Tate Carlson

Expert tips to keep pets healthy and safe.

Rachel Mairose, executive director of Secondhand Hounds, says the shelter has witnessed an uptick in interest for pet adoptions and fostering during the pandemic. “Our large dog coordinator had a 75 percent increase in the number of lives saved over [last] summer,” Mairose says. “Over [last] summer and into fall, we rarely have dogs stay [available for adoption] on the website more than a couple hours.”

“[Pet adoptions] is the silver lining of this whole pandemic for us,” Mairose says. “The amount of lives not only Secondhand Hounds has been able to save, but every rescue across the country, is amazing.”

With pet ownership comes spending more time outdoors, which is healthy for owners and their pets. So where are good areas to take pets for a walk? At home, is there anything owners can do to make sure landscaping elements are pet friendly? We turned to some experts for answers.

Jean Larson, PhD, manager of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s nature-based therapeutic services and assistant professor at the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota says

When you’re out and about, it’s essential to let dogs follow their instincts while staying on marked paths. While humans are used to moving at their own speed, it’s important to allow dogs to have a say in the pace. “When you are on a walk with your dog, let your dog sniff.” Larson says. “Sniffing on a walk is extremely important for a dog’s wellbeing, and it allows us humans to slow down and enjoy the walk, too.”

Golden Retriever

Photo: Emily Davis

Heading out for some exercise and socialization is important for pets, but, let’s face it, they spend a vast majority of their time in their own backyard. Larson gives pet owners a few tips for pet-safe yard care at home. “Invest in a quality fence for your yard,” Larson says. “Physical fencing allows your dog to roam freely and stay safe.” She also says that careful supervision and recognizing your dog’s habits can be a great way to create a space he/she will enjoy. Is he a digger? Provide a sand pit for digging. Is she a sniffer? Feature areas of heavier cover where your dog can happily sniff. Does your dog like to sunbathe? Find a sunny spot where your dog can warm his belly.

Larson also recommends using dogsafe materials in you landscaping and warns against using cocoa bean mulch and commercial weed killers. Kristi Flynn, DVM, assistant professor for primary care at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, says that often, fertilizers with bone meal can also be dangerous. “[They] prove to be irresistible for some dogs and can make a dog sick if they eat too much,” Flynn says.

At-home horticulturists should be strategic about what plants are in their gardens, as many can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested. Yews, castor bean, holly and lilies are a few that can quickly become dangerous. “The best prevention for keeping your dog healthy is to research plants that work in your zone and are safe for your dogs,” Larson says. She suggests books like Dog Friendly Gardens by Cheryl Smith. Pet owners can also visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ online library of poisonous plants.

While owners can’t always know if a dog has ingested a dangerous plant, there are a few signs that are important to note. “Some plants can cause drooling or mild [gastrointestinal] signs right away, while others can have more serious adverse effects delayed after ingestion,” Flynn says. If you are worried that your pet has eaten something he/she shouldn’t, Flynn recommends contacting a veterinarian or a pet poison center, including the Pet Poison Helpline at 855.764.7661.


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