How to create a dog friendly garden

May 12, 2020

As summer approaches, we can look forward to spending more time in our gardens. Animal Nurse Assistant Dawn Prime shares her tips for creating a dog friendly garden to make sure it is a fun, safe and secure place for all the family to enjoy. 

Poisonous plants for dogs

According to the Royal Horticultural Society there are at least 130 common house and garden plants that are known to cause harm to pets and humans.

As many garden plants are toxic to dogs, it is always good to check if a plant is safe before growing it to make sure you have a dog friendly garden. Poisonous plants for dogs include: 

Daffodils

The bulb of the daffodil is extremely poisonous to dogs. If a dog eats a daffodil bulb or drinks the water from the vase of cut daffodils, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea, salivation and a wobbly appearance. In extreme cases, dogs can collapse and have seizures.

Tulips

This popular spring garden flower is toxic to dogs. They can cause irritation to the mouth, as well as vomiting and diarrhoea.

Crocus plants

The spring crocus has low levels of toxicity but can still cause mild vomiting and diarrhoea if eaten by a dog. However, the autumn crocus is more dangerous as it can cause problems with the liver and kidneys.

The advice from the Veterinary Poison Information Service is to: 

  • Keep bulbs away from dogs when you planting them
  • Make sure your dog does not dig the bulbs back up again after being planted
  • If you have cut flowers in the house, place them on a high surface to keep them away from your dog.

However, it’s not just toxicity that you need to think about when choosing plants. Some plants may not be poisonous but can harm dogs in other ways. For example, spiky leaves or thorns can damage dogs’ eyes or scratch their skin.

Be aware also of ornamental grasses. These have seed heads which can become lodged in ears, eyes, noses, and between toes. 

Dog friendly plants

The good news is that there are lots of plants that don’t harm dogs. What’s more, some garden plants have beneficial effects for dogs too. For example, lavender can help to reduce anxiety and other nervous conditions. Marigolds are good for dogs experiencing grief or emotional distress. The Mayhew has some great advice for creating a stress-busting sensory garden for dogs

Other dog friendly plants which are easy to care for and will add colour to your garden include: 

  • Daisies 
  • Honeysuckle
  • Roses (but be mindful of thorns as these can damage dogs’ eyes),  
  • Sunflowers 
  • Cornflowers

Snail and slug pellets and dogs

Many garden pesticides contain an ingredient called metaldehyde, which can be toxic to dogs. According to the Veterinary Poison Information Service, metaldehyde poisoning is the most common cause of death in dogs. 

Use a natural alternative such as crushed egg shells, instead of a pesticide, to discourage slugs and snails in your garden. If you must use a pesticide, you will need to keep your dog away from the treated area for several days. 

Dogs suspected of being poisoned by snail or slug pellets need to be seen by a vet urgently. Symptoms can include your dog being unsteady on their feet or having a seizure. 

Snails and slugs can also pose a risk of lungworm to dogs if eaten. Signs of lungworm include coughing, lethargy and difficulty breathing. 

Other dangers in the garden

Herbicides

Herbicides can have a range of effects on dogs, including upset stomachs, breathing problems and potential kidney and liver failure. Keep herbicides out of your dog’s reach and do not let your dog in the garden until the herbicides have completely dried. Dogs can be poisoned by brushing against, licking or eating plants that have been treated. 

Rodenticides (rat and mouse killers)

This is one of the most common poisonings seen in veterinary practices. Dogs that have eaten rat poison can show signs of weakness, lethargy and bruising (the rat poison can cause blood issues in dogs), upset stomachs and seizures.

If you have a problem with rats or mice, use a humane trap rather than poison if at all possible. However, if you must use a rodenticide, you should keep hold of the packaging, just in case you suspect your dog has been poisoned. Knowing what the active ingredient is in a product that a dog has consumed can help vets to prescribe the right treatment. 

What to do if you think your dog has been poisoned?

If you think your dog has eaten or has come into contact with something poisonous in the garden, you should contact your veterinary practice straight away. Don’t try to treat your dog or make them sick as this can make things worse. 

When you contact the veterinary surgery, make sure you have the following information to hand:

  • What poison you think your dog has been exposed to. If possible, give the product names or the main ingredient.
  • How much the dog may have eaten?
  • When your dog was exposed to the poison?
  • What symptoms your dog is showing. 

Read more in our guide to dog first aid about what to do if you think your dog has been poisoned.

Dog proof fencing and ponds

A good fence will keep your dog safe and secure in the garden. Make sure it’s the right height for your dog. 

Regularly check around your fence to spot any potential escape routes. Don’t forget to check underneath as dogs are prolific diggers! Make sure that gates are kept securely fastened too. 

If you’ve got a pond, it’s a good idea to cover it to keep your dog safe. If you don’t have a cover, make sure that if your dog jumps in, they can easily get out, and knows how to swim! Be extra careful with puppies and ponds. 

Finally, having a compost bin is fantastic for the environment. However, they can contain food, such as onions and raisins, which are dangerous to dogs. For this reason they should be kept out of reach of your dog. 

Read more about what human food dogs can and can’t eat in our guide to feeding puppies and dogs.

Your dog friendly garden

To summarise, here’s how to create your dog friendly garden:

  • Fill it with plants that are safe – and good – for your dog
  • Use natural alternatives to pesticides and herbicides and human alternatives to rodenticides
  • Check your fencing regularly to make sure there are no escape routes
  • Cover ponds to make them dog safe
  • Keep the compost bin out of reach of your dog’s reach

Dawn Prime is an R-SQP and Animal Nurse Assistant in a companion animal veterinary practice on the Norfolk /Suffolk border. She has a great passion for animal health  and welfare;  won the Veterinary Practice SQP 2020 and was named Overall SQP of the year 2019. You can follow Dawn on Twitter and Instagram