How do I create a pet-proof garden?

Your garden is the perfect place to enjoy with your pets while spending time at home. However, while you may be in the safety of your own home, there are several hazards present in your garden which could potentially harm your pet. Here are a few cat and dog-friendly garden ideas to help keep your pet safe while enjoying the outdoors.

1. Raise flower beds

Raised beds and clearly designed pathways help to keep dogs out of the flowerbeds and protect the more delicate plants.  For areas where the dogs (and children) will be letting off steam choose tougher more hardy plants or shrubs that can withstand a bit of battering.

2. Identify toxic plants

Some plants can be toxic to animals so make sure that your garden contains only cat and dog-friendly plants and flowers.  Common toxic plants include: crocuses, azaleas, bleeding heart (Dicentra), box, bluebells, broom, Cyclamen, daffodils, Dieffenbachia, hyacinth bulbs, mistletoe, yew, onions and rhubarb.  Although most plants are not attractive to pets, puppies and kittens are especially inquisitive and dogs can chew on sticks when you are pruning. Chewing on sticks may be fun for your dog but in addition to the potential toxicity of the plants, there is a risk of damaging the soft tissue around their mouth and splinters can penetrate the neck, throat and chest.

3. Secure fencing

Ensure your fencing is secure with no gaps or holes to prevent your dog from escaping.  Look at your pet’s habits too – is he a digger? If so, consider giving him an area that it is OK for him to dig in and encourage him to use this area, by hiding toys or treats in it, rather than the lawn.  For cats consider planting cat nip (Nepeta cataria) or cat grass that is safe for them to chew on.

image of a cat and dog lying on grass for vets now article on pet-friendly garden ideas

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4. Provide shady spots

Make sure your pet isn’t at risk of overheating on sunny days by providing shady areas around your garden for them to relax. Having plenty of cold water available it’s always important as many dogs drink more water in summer and when it’s hot.

5. Store chemicals securely

The main dangers for your pet come from chemicals and fertilizers, so try and reduce your use of these products – it is better for the wildlife in your garden too.  Metaldehyde (slug pellets) is the most common poisoning we see.

6. Secure compost

Be careful with your compost heap as mouldy food can make your pet quite ill – ensure your dog cannot access your compost heap for a quick snack.

Cocoa mulch is toxic if eaten and has the same effect as chocolate.

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7. Put garden tools away

Popular garden tools such as lawnmowers, strimmers and secateurs should be kept well away from your pet. Not only are many garden tools extremely dangerous but the loud noises some make can be frightening for pets. If you plan to do a spot of gardening using gardening tools it’s best to keep your pet indoors.

8. Be prepared for bees and wasps

As the weather warms up you may start to see bees and wasps in your garden and curious pets are at risk of getting stung if they get too close.

If your pet has been stung but is not suffering a bad reaction:

  1. Remove the stinger by scraping a credit card over the affected area (wasps and hornets don’t leave stingers behind).
  2. Avoid using tweezers or your nails as you may inadvertently squeeze more venom into your pet.
  3. Soothe the area around the bite by bathing it in water.
  4. Consider using bicarbonate of soda to neutralise bee stings (which are acidic) and vinegar on wasp stings (which are alkaline). Remember bees = bicarb, wasps = vinegar!
  5. Apply an ice pack (or a bag of frozen vegetables or cold damp towel) to the affected area for around 10 minutes.
  6. If your pet suffers an allergic reaction or severe swelling, contact your vet for advice.
  7. Only ever give your pet antihistamines if directed to do so by a vet