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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Lawn Chemicals and Canines

By Heather Mishefske, Owner, emBARK 

Lawn chemicals.  To some, these words conjur up images of lush green lawns to lust over.  To many of us reading those words conjur up images of sick pets and children.

We all know that lawn chemicals can cause more harm than good to both our environment AND our pets.  One breed in particular has been studied more than many looking at the damage that lawn chemicals can have.  Scottish Terriers are 16 times more likely to develop transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder, and research is suggesting that the exposure to herbicides and insecticides is having a dramatic influence on this increase.1

How and why do these chemicals affect our dogs?  As we all know, our dogs are all inherent hunters.  Some of them hunt ants on the sidewalk, while others track moles under the earth in our yards.  The routes in which these chemicals enter a dog’s body are ingestion, inhalation, and transdermal exposures.  Our dogs walk through our neighbors’ lawns, and come home to sit on the couch and lick their paws.  They are intent on smelling where that rabbit hopped off to, and inhale deeply.  And, as many of this magazine’s readers most likely are not using herbicides on their lawns, it is well known that these chemicals can travel in the wind over 50 feet into your lawn.  Wind speed is a warning on the application guidelines for herbicides, but this may be unknown to many who apply them.

Keep your dogs safe this spring/summer by avoiding lawns that have been treated and by being overly cautious about wiping off noses, paws, toes, and tails that have possibly been exposed with a damp towel.


Lawn chemicals, particularly, ones containing 2,4-D, have been linked to at least two types of canine cancers. Studies found that lawn chemicals travel to neighboring yards and inside homes, and chemicals have been found in the urine of dogs whose owners did not spray their lawns.2

Dogs are flame-retardant reservoirs. Brominated flame retardants, often known as PBDEs, are among the top chemicals threatening your health. And these long-persisting chemicals are inside most American dogs, too. Hiding out in pet bedding dust and even food, it’s no surprise dog samples contained 19 different PBDE flame retardants. One type was detected at levels 17 times higher than concentrations typically seen in people.3

Plastic toys are poisoning your pet.  Phthalates are industrial chemicals found in everything from dog shampoos, scented candles and air fresheners to certain plastics. Phthalates aren’t only used to synthetic scents stick around longer, but they help turn rigid plastic into more flexible forms, too. (Many plastic dog toys contain phthalates, unfortunately.)3

Sources: 1. Glickman, Lawrence VMD, DrPH; Raghavan, Malathi DVM PhD; Knapp, Deborah DVM, MS, DACVI; Bonney, Patty; Dawson, Marcia DVM. “Herbicide Exposure and the Risk of Transitional Carcinonoma of the Urinary Bladder in Scottish Terriers.”  In Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association. April 15,2004 Volume 224 Number 8, page 1290 – 1297; 2.; 3.

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