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    Is Your Yard Safe for Your Dog or Cat?

    Poisonous plants and toxic chemicals could be lurking. Here's how to protect your pets.
    By Jodi Helmer
    WebMD Magazine - Feature
    Reviewed by William Draper, DVM

    You're eager to transform your yard from a bare patch of grass into a lush landscape where Fido can play fetch and Whiskers can smell the catnip. But before you buy flats of flowers and start a compost pile, learn how the choices you make can pose risks to your pets.

    In 2013 the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center fielded 18,000 calls about possible poisonings from toxic plants, compost, and yard and garden chemicals.

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    Consider these tips before you get started planting.

    Avoid poisonous plants. Several popular plants are toxic to dogs and cats. Begonias, clematis, and azaleas may trigger symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to death in dogs. For cats, eating lilies can be fatal, according to

    Tina Wismer, DVM, a veterinarian, master gardener, and medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

    "Your new puppy is not the same as your old dog and may chew on the plants in your backyard," Wismer says.

    Before you go to the garden center, check the list of poisonous plants on the ASPCA's web site, and avoid species that could cause health problems. If any plants already in your garden are on the list, consider removing them.

    Cover the compost pile. The scent of rotting produce might tempt your pup to turn the compost pile into a canine buffet. While it's safe to feed your dog some fresh fruits and vegetables, once produce hits the compost pile, mold and fungus can turn an unauthorized nosh into a trip to the vet.

    "Some molds can cause tremors and seizures if they're ingested," Wismer says. And certain compostable foods, including grapes and onions, are toxic to dogs even before mold forms.

    Look for compost bins with secure latches, or install a fence around the compost pile to limit your pets' access. Wismer also suggests you scan your yard and pick any mushrooms (which can be toxic), as well as fruit and nuts that drop from trees (which will mold if left untouched). Add them to the compost pile before your pet finds them.

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