Most dogs love being free to run in the yard, especially if they’ve spent all day inside. It’s good exercise for them, but unfortunately, it could also be hurting them too.
Many homeowners use fertilizers to give their yard a bright green hue. The same fertilizers that keep grass healthy and thriving may also be hurting animals, including our pets. The effect may not be immediately obvious, but the chemicals create lasting health problems once ingested or absorbed by animals.
Read on to learn more about how canine cancers have been linked to lawn care chemicals. People may assume that fertilizers get washed away in heavy rain or completely absorbed by the grass, but much of it ends up on the paws of free-roaming pups and other wildlife. If given the opportunity to learn about the dangers of lawn care chemicals, more people may avoid using them.
Lymphoma and Lawn Chemicals
Pet owners know their dog better than anyone else, which is why it’s so important for all dog lovers to keep an eye on their pet and always be alert for changes in their behavior. Dog cancers typically share the same initial symptoms. Weight loss, changes in eating and difficulty swallowing are all early signs of canine cancer. Noticing this early on will help vets detect and diagnose dogs, leading to more treatment options.
One of the major canine cancers caused by lawn care chemicals is lymphoma. This cancer mutates the white blood cell count, forcing the body to attack itself. When white blood cells increase beyond the normal amount a dog typically has, there’s an increased production of lymphocytes. These make any malignant tumors worse, while the white blood cells are focused on fighting disease elsewhere in the body, causing eventual symptoms.
A Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine study found that lymphoma in animals directly correlated with some lawn care chemicals. Specifically, products that included 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. 2 4-D is an endocrine-disrupting chemical, meant to kill off clovers and dandelions. When it’s absorbed into a dog’s body, it targets the thyroid and keeps the body from producing hormones that regulate normal functions such as white blood cell production.
Bladder Cancer and Lawn Chemicals
Bladder cancer is the other main cancer caused by 2 4-D. The chemical compound significantly increases the risk of this cancer, but it disproportionately affects different breeds. Breeds such as terriers, beagles and sheepdogs are more likely to get bladder cancer if exposed to 2 4-D. Even if owners aren’t spraying their lawns, keeping the chemical in the house or garage can be dangerous.
Dogs don’t need to touch the lawn care chemical for it to affect them. If they chew their way into a fertilizer bag or inhale it after an opened bag falls over, they are equally affected by the chemical. The same goes for if a dog runs through a treated lawn and goes back in the house. The chemical is then tracked inside where they’ll continue to have exposure to it.
Bladder cancer may be harder for owners to detect than lymphoma. The major symptoms are blood in the urine, frequent urination and pain when urinating. Unless an owner gets a good look at the urine after a dog finishes their business, these symptoms can go unchecked for months while the dog continues spending time in the yard.
How Can We Take Better Care of Our Pets and Wildlife?
The first thing home and pet owners can do is learn what a yard needs to grow and decide what the safest alternative is to popular fertilizer brands. Any yard can still be thick and green without adding harmful chemicals into our beautiful environment.
The first step to nurturing a yard is to test the pH of the soil. The amount of foam produced by household vinegar and baking soda will show where the soil level falls on the pH scale. If there’s minimal foam, the acidic content of soil is low. Compost or organic mulch can fix this quickly, whether the soil is meant to nourish grass or grow crops.
Soil with high levels of pH are also easy to treat. Leftover cold coffee can be diluted with water and poured out on grassy areas to lower pH levels. This should dry before dogs are let into the yard, but once it’s been absorbed, stepping in the area won’t cause any harm to dogs. Peat moss is another high pH treatment, if worked into the soil. Dogs can run around in the yard even as this treatment is done. Peat moss is nontoxic, only causing any harm if eaten in very large amounts. Other methods of lawn care don’t require treatments at all. Homeowners can make sure their lawn is receiving enough water frequently to ensure that the issue isn’t soil drying out.
It is possible to keep a lawn safe and thriving, while also preventing dogs from entering grass that has fertilizer residue in it. To keep dogs and wildlife healthy and happy, it’s always best to take the safest alternative. Dog owners can look for all-natural methods of treating soil pH levels. Once a home and yard is emptied of toxic chemicals, especially those containing 2 4-D, the chances of the family dog developing lymphoma or bladder cancer significantly decreases, as does the chance of any other beautiful wildlife suffering from harmful chemical exposure.