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Dog Gardening


There are trees to avoid (noted at the end of this article), but you can’t go wrong with an apple tree. A bit of apple, crushed and mixed with other fresh foods, is a delightful addition to the diet of a dog who appreciates homemade cuisine. So too can boring dog food be enlivened by judicious supplementation with a touch of fresh, home-grown parsley, ginger or mint. It might even improve your dog’s breath. Check with your vet to make sure fresh herbs and vegetables are appropriate for your pet.

Most things that you like from the garden will also appeal to dogs. Incorporate carrots, squash, potatoes, peas and other vegetables into meals or treats. Remember that the items you must cook before eating yourself, such as potatoes, require the same treatment for canine consumption.

Protecting Your Dog
Having protected your garden from your dog, you must now protect your dog from the garden. Within those forbidden walls many dangers lurk. Chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides head the list. Avoid them. With vegetable gardening, going organic makes great sense. If you want to freely graze in your garden (and not panic if your dog does the same) organic is the only way. Particularly troublesome chemicals used in non-organic gardens are worth of mention. The active ingredient in most snail baits (metaldehyde) is terribly poisonous—causing tremors, convulsions or death—and formulated in a way that attracts dogs. Gopher and mole poisons are quite nasty and should also be avoided. Most fungicides, herbicides and pest killers when first applied, even organic and relatively safe varieties, can be toxic if ingested or contacted by your pets. Always seal and safely store such products. Keep your dog away from sprayed areas until they dry. When watering, prevent excess run-off from drifting toward your dog’s favorite spot. You don’t want your pup lapping from puddles of dissolved garden chemicals.

Carefully consider plant selection. Many ornamentals and some vegetables can poison a dog who consumes vegetation. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), Larkspur (Delphinium ajacis) and even potato foliage (Solanum tuberosum) have toxic effects on the heart and circulation. When dogs eat large amounts of onions, they may suffer red blood cell destruction. Rhubarb leaves (Rheum rhabarbaram) contain oxalic acid. In quantity, it damages kidneys.

If you dog loves to chew wood, avoid trees with toxic bark, such as cherry (contains cyanide-like components). Some nut trees are risky (walnut is notorious) when dogs consume rotting shells, which contain fungal organisms that produce nasty toxins. Depending on your dog’s dietary tendencies (and digestive tract), stone fruit trees (apricots, plums) can provide raw material for obstruction by indigestible pits.

I’ve lately noticed that my dog has more fun digging in her garden than I do in mine. Of course, she keeps finding those bones I’ve buried for her. Perhaps when the carrots are ready to pull, we’ll be on even terms. Maybe I’ll even share one with her.




Jack Aldridge, DVM, is on staff at the San Francisco SPCA.

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