How to Safely Garden with Pets!

With the sun shining and the flowers blooming we thought it’d be a great idea to explain how to safely garden with pets. We understand wanting a plush yard, a garden to grow in, and some color around your landscaping, but did you know that some commonly known plants, fertilizers, and even mulch can prove to be dangerous for our furry friends?

Read more to see the plants, fertilizer, and mulch to steer clear of this gardening season from your friends at PetFlow!

cat and dog rolling around outside in the grass


There are a lot of plants which are poisonous or harmful to our pets. When you’re planning on how to design your landscaped areas it’s a good idea to keep in mind that many plants are indeed poisonous to our pets. These plants include common outdoor plants, such as sago palms, rhododendrons, and azaleas! These three plants are toxic to both cats and dogs.

Plants like the sago palm and mushrooms can cause liver failure in our pets if ingested. Other plants such as the rhododendron, lily of the valley, oleander, rosebay, foxglove, azalea, and kalanchoe can affect our pet’s hearts.

Sago Palm Tree Poisonous to both Cats and dogs

Sago Palm:  All parts of this plant are toxic but keep in mind that the seeds have the highest level of toxins. One seed can actually lead to the death of a dog if ingested, so it’s imperative to avoid having these in an accessible area in a pet-friendly home.

Signs of Ingestion: lethargy, depression, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite.

Lily flowers are poisonous to cats and dogs

Lilies: Members of the true lily family cause kidney failure in cats. Examples of these include Easter lilies, tiger lilies, rubrum or Japanese showy lilies, and daylilies. Even the smallest bit of exposure may result in kidney failure in a cat. All parts of the lily including the stem, leaves, petals, and pollen are poisonous to cats.  Even minor exposures such as brushing against the leaf can be fatal. Be extra cautious when accepting holiday bouquets since a lot of them include lilies.

Signs of Ingestion: drooling, vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, excessive thirst, racing or irregular pulse, excessive urination

Oleanders are poisonous to both cats and dogs despite their beauty

Cardiac Glycoside Plants: Plants such as the oleander, foxglove, and lily of the valley contain what’s known as a cardiac glycoside. A glycoside slows down the heartbeat and can even stop it, causing death. Typically you’ll find these plants in a lot of outdoor landscapes. The lily of the valley tends to be found in winter arrangements, holiday celebrations, and are also common in weddings.

Signs of Ingestion: drooling, vomiting, nausea, abnormal heart rate, cardiac arrhythmias, weakness, dilated pupils, tremors, seizures

Rhododendrons are poisonous to cats and dogs

Grayanotoxin Plants: Rhododendrons, azaleas, laurels, and Japanese Pieris include what’s called grayanotoxins which cause vomiting, seizures, and sometimes cardiac arrest. Typically these plants are found outdoors and are highly toxic to our pets. Please be cautious when you have your pet in an outdoor area you’re unfamiliar with, and keep an eye out for these beautiful yet deadly plants.

Signs of Ingestion: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, depression, difficulty swallowing


In addition to the flowers above,  the fertilizer we use to plant our gardens can also be harmful to our pets. There are a few types of fertilizer: granules and water-based products that are usually sprayed onto the lawn.  Some fertilizers contain insecticides for killing certain insects such as snails and grubs which can generally result in mild gastrointestinal upsets if your pet ingests it.

granular fertilizer can be harmful to our pets

Fertilizer tends to be most dangerous coming straight out of the bag. If your pet eats some grass that had been treated with fertilizer, it is rare that your pet will be severely poisoned by it. However, if you have bags of fertilizer and your pet ingests this stuff right out the bag, it can result in tremors and seizures and be much more severe.

Spray and granular fertilizer can be harmful to both cats and dogs

Another essential bit of information about fertilizer is that the organic stuff tends to be most dangerous. Organic fertilizers are typically made of natural ingredients including leftovers from meatpacking and/or farming industry.  These include: bone meal, blood meal, feather meal, fish meal

Signs of Ingestion: drooling, vomiting, severe lethargy, collapse, diarrhea, excessive tearing, urination, abnormal heart rates, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, death


Mulch can contain foreign bodies which may be harmful to your pet. Mulch is typically shredded tree bark, but can also come in many other forms. Cocoa mulch, for example, is made from shells of the cocoa bean. Cocoa mulch is often used in landscaping and even has a faint smell of chocolate. As a result of this sweet aroma, dogs may be tempted to eat it.

Luckily it’s relatively rare for dogs to be poisoned by Cocoa mulch but it’s one to be wary of if you’re a pet parent and you’re looking to redesign your landscape.

cocoa mulch contains theobromine that is bad for dogs

Cocoa mulch contains a small amount of theobromine, the chemical that commonly results in chocolate poisoning. Since this is within the makeup of the mulch, if your dog ingests large amounts, this can cause symptoms of chocolate poisoning.

The severity of chocolate poisoning will depend on how much your dog ingests. If your dog swallows a small amount of Cocoa mulch, they will likely experience a gastrointestinal upset. However, if symptoms persist, they may have been exposed to a more substantial amount, and you’ll want to seek medical help immediately.

Signs of Ingestion: vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, rapid heart rate, irregular heart rate, increase in blood pressure, hyperactivity or nervousness, GI complications, blood in the urine, frequent urination, increase in body temperature, muscle rigidity, dilated pupils, rapid breathing, increased thirst, overactive responses, seizures.

cocoa beans contain theobromine which is poisonous to both cats and dogs


So pet parents, next time you’re planning on refreshing your garden or starting a new DIY project, think about your pet’s safety! Try your best to avoid the plants, fertilizer, and mulch we mentioned above!

Safe Plants if you have a cat or a dog


For those of you pet parents who love having plants, here is a list of 10 safe plants to consider:

1. Blue Echeveria
2. Bamboo
3. Areca or Golden Palm
4. Burro’s Tail or Lamb’s Tail
5. Christmas Cactus
6. Cliff Brake or Button Fern
7. Hens and Chickens
8. Pearl Plant
9. Pony Tail Palm
10. Spice Orchid

happy pets with safe gardens

If you suspect that your dog or cat may have been exposed to something poisonous, contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian as soon as possible. When in doubt, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Some landscapes are inevitably going to have some of these toxins, so please consider a solution to helping keep your dog or cat contained while outdoors. KittyWalk outdoor cat enclosure from PetFlowWe have some excellent outdoor cat enclosures that allow your cat to be outside without potentially being exposed to the elements.

For some dogs, a playpen or an outdoor pet gate is a great solution to keep your dog safely contained and out of your beautiful flowers!