Vegetable Gardening and Pets

By Catherine Angle, DVM
Staff Veterinarian

Outside Garden SuppliesVegetable gardening is a wonderful opportunity to spend time outside with our pets and eat healthy.  However, it sometimes seems that our pets are deliberately trying to destroy our hard work by eating our plants and digging up the garden.  There are some products that are especially attractive to dogs and cats.  Some of the forays into our gardens are not only destructive, but also dangerous.  Here is a list of garden foods and items that we frequently get called about.

  1. Bone meal – frequently added to soil to encourage the growth of flowering bulbs this product is very attractive to our canine companions.  Some will even eat it out of the bag while their owners back is turned.  Unfortunately it doesn’t sit well there and will usually cause vomiting and, in some cases, gastrointestinal obstruction and pancreatitis.  Keep pets away while you put down bone meal, water the soil thoroughly multiple times before letting pets return to the area and watch them to see if they are interested in the area.
  2. Fish meal, blood meal, manure, and other fertilizers – as a general rule, if it smells bad, your dog will love it!  If you want to use these products, you will need to supervise your pet while they are outside for at least a couple of days to prevent them from digging up your garden.  If they eat these products, the risk of ill health is small, but the damage to your garden might be great.
  3. Tomatoes – many dogs LOVE green tomatoes.  Green tomatoes don’t always sit very well.  Keep dogs away from the plants if they show interest.
  4. Compost piles – these are an environmentally friendly way to create your own fertilizer and enhance your soil.  They also reduce the amount of trash you produce.  However, while composting your pet may have access to partially rotten food items that can cause serious health problems if ingested.  Use secure fencing or closed plastic bins to keep the composting material away from your pet.  If your dog ingests a portion of the compost please call to discuss the ingredients so we can assess any possible concerns.  Mold from compost piles can cause muscle tremors, bacteria can cause significant diarrhea and the foods in the piles (raisins and onions to name a few) can cause other health problems.
  5. Cocoa Bean Mulch – this beautiful and delicious smelling mulch is often consumed in large quantities by our canine friends if they have access to it.  When first placed the product still has the smell of chocolate and the same toxic effects as chocolate.  Over time this fades, but large ingestions can still cause stomach upset and may even result in a blockage.
  6. Animal Baits – gophers, rabbits or mice eating your garden?  You may be tempted to place out baits to get rid of them, but please remember that anything that can kill a small animal can also hurt a big animal if they eat enough of it.  If you need to place baits, keep your pets away.  If you can’t keep your pets away, you may need to share your veggies with the local fauna.  If you suspect your pet ingested a poison, please call us immediately for treatment advice.  Early intervention is key.
  7. Herb Gardens – cats love herb gardens!  They also tend to vomit after chewing on the leaves.  Keep any indoor plants away from your feline friends.  Catnip can be grown for them specifically, but it spreads rapidly when planted outside.  Beware – it will take over your garden and attract cats other then your own!