A Chemical-Free Yard: Rid Your Lawn of Pesticides, Chemical Fertilizers, Weed Killers and Insecticides

Landscape chemicals could harm your pets. Protect them by choosing safe alternatives.

| March/April 2010

  • Native plants resist bugs and disease with little maintenance and zero danger to pets or humans.
  • Pets can track landscape chemicals into your home, which is particularly dangerous for children.

You want to give your pet a lush outdoor space to run and roam, but many fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides use harmful chemicals. Almost all chemical yard treatments have a natural alternative. If you or your neighbors must use them, understanding the chemical composition of fertilizers, weed killers (or herbicides) and pesticides could save or prolong your pet’s life.


Animal health experts agree that fertilizers—whether synthetic, natural (animal manure or worm castings) or a combination—are relatively safe around pets. Most formulations are composed of three primary elements normally present in our (and our pets’) bodies: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

If your pets eat fertilized grass, “it doesn’t cause any major problems—just some mild gastrointestinal irritation,” says Justine A. Lee, a certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and author of It’s a Dog’s Life...but It’s Your Carpet and It’s a Cat’s World... You Just Live In It. Seek emergency medical care if your dog eats fertilizer straight out of the bag. In higher doses, it could be toxic.

Weed killers

Weed killers, or herbicides, are not terribly problematic from a toxicology perspective, says Steven R. Hansen, a veterinarian and senior vice president at ASPCA Animal Health Services. “Most have a limited effect on animals.”

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