Dr. Ryan Ridgway – Southwest Mobile Pet Care
Now that the snows are gone, people are looking forward to work on their lawn and getting their garden in. But with the beauty of a lawn and garden, comes every gardener’s bane – weeds and weeding. To save time and back-ache, many gardeners turn to herbicides to keep the weeds away. Not only can these herbicides be dangerous to people, but our pets as well- small dogs and cats in particular because they don’t require as much exposure to receive a toxic dose.
Most herbicides sold to gardeners use either 2,4-D or Glyphosate to kill weeds, depending on whether you wish to kill broad-leaf weeds or all plants respectively. Pet owners should be aware that even many of the products marketed as being “Eco”, “Green”, “Natural” and “Safe” contain 2,4-D – Always read the label for the active ingredient regardless of how it is marketed. Glyphosate is much safer than 2,4-D for us and our pets, not only having a lower toxicity but also because it is not absorbed through the skin as well as other herbicides.
Even if you don’t use herbicides on your own lawn, it doesn’t mean your pet won’t be exposed. During the summer, towns often spray their ditches and parks for insects and weeds. If you are out for a walk, watch for signs stating they have been recently sprayed and don’t walk your pets in those areas – your pet can receive a toxic dose simply from inhaling the herbicide, eating recently sprayed grass or absorbing the poison through their skin.
Pets and people that are exposed to herbicides can absorb the herbicide through their skin, or by ingesting or inhaling it. Pets, however, are at an increased risk of receiving a toxic dose because they commonly lick their fur as well as eat things off the ground or the grass itself, and most herbicides are more easily absorbed through the gut. Additionally, heavy sniffing along the ground means dogs inhale far more of the toxin than we do, breathing normally at five or six feet above the ground.
Health Canada’s Pesticide and Pest Management section regulates pesticides and herbicides in Canada. Their website, www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pest/index-eng.php, contains useful information on various herbicides, as well as tips on how to reduce usage and the risks associated with using them.Signs your pet has ingested a herbicide include the following: vomiting, seizures/convulsions, weakness/collapse or problems breathing.
If you have any questions or concerns about any possible herbicide or pesticide exposure in your pets, contact your veterinarian as soon as it happens. The success of treatment for herbicide toxicity is dependent on minimizing the toxin dose, supporting your pet while it metabolizes and excretes the toxin and preventing future liver and kidney problems. By contacting your veterinarian as soon as possible, they can recommend whether you should make your pet vomit while you are on route for supportive care by your veterinarian. Supportive care for herbicide toxicities generally requires intravenous fluids to flush out the toxins as well as anticonvulsants, oxygen supplementation and protectants for the liver and kidney.