When it comes to outdoor horticulture, there are few critics as enthusiastic as our pets. Whether it’s a comment on where they think a new hole should be (right in the middle of the lawn, usually) or a suggestion that perhaps those flowers you just planted didn’t quite fit (so they dug them up for you), there’s plenty of work for them to do out there. However, they’re not the only ones enjoying the fruits of your labor — there are plenty of other, uninvited critters out there too, some of which may pose a risk to your pets:
The vast majority of snakes found in North American gardens are harmless (and are usually a benefit to the garden). However, if you have a large piece of land or are in a rural area, make sure you know what venomous snakes you might come across — identification is an important part of successfully treating snake bites for pets and humans. Keeping your pooch out of flower beds and away from shaded areas under trees, shrubs or rocks is usually enough to keep them well protected.
Stinging insects (bees/wasps)
In my experience cats and dogs have a particularly care-free attitude about these insects and, not uncommonly, we’ll see a swollen head, face or mouth as a result of them winning the game of “catch the buzzy thing.” Most stings are easily treated by a veterinarian but stung pets should always get checked out to make sure that airways are clear and no stingers are left behind.
A huge concern in many areas due to the risk of Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis or Ehrlichiosis; all diseases spread by ticks. Make sure your pet is on a tick preventive, such as Frontline, all year-round, but especially in May and June when ticks are most prevalent — and check everyone for ticks when they come in from outside.
Venomous spider bites are an unusual problem for pets, but the most severe bites are from black widow or brown recluse spiders, both having a fairly widespread distribution across the United States. Spider bites are often “assumed diagnoses” by veterinarians familiar with the signs — the actual spider is rarely seen. Pets rooting around under rocks or inside hollow pieces of wood are most at risk from spider bites.
The take-home message? Stick to the grass. With good tick prevention, the lawn’s a pretty safe place to be. (And now you have another good reason to tell them to keep them out of your flower beds!)