May 6, 2024


Outdoor Pet Dangers

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

With the outdoor temperatures finally warming up, it means that spring has finally arrived! I don’t know about you, but at this time of the year, I often get the urge to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather and sunshine. Whether it’s just sitting outside and listening to the birds chirp, taking my dog for a long walk, or getting my hands dirty planting some spring flowers, it’s so nice to enjoy the warmer weather.

My dog is often right beside me enjoying the outdoors, too. But have you ever thought about “dog-proofing” your yard?  I know many of us are careful to eliminate hazards inside our homes, but there are dangers outside that we might not even realize.


Mulch products are often treated with harsh chemicals that can cause your pets to upset stomachs or more severe problems.  If your pets eat the mulch, it could cause obstructions or blockages of the stomach or intestines.  Such obstructions can be life-threatening and may require emergency surgery to remove them.

Have you heard about cocoa mulch?  It is beautiful and smells fragrant. However, since it comes from the cocoa plant, it contains the same component (theobromine) found in chocolate and is toxic to pets. In recent years, mulch companies have tried to reduce the amount of the toxic component, but it is best to avoid cocoa mulch if your pets go outside.


Many herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers contain potent chemicals to kill weeds and bugs or give specific nutrients to your grass.  Depending on the chemical, these products can cause vomiting and diarrhea or more severe problems like kidney or liver failure or seizures.  If you need these products for your yard, please be careful to follow all directions very carefully. Keep your pets away from these products when they are wet and follow safety recommendations before allowing your pets back in your yard.

Keep in mind, even if you don’t use these products, your neighbors might. Chemicals from your neighbors’ yards may drain into your yard after a rain and may affect your pets. 

Wild Animals

Not only do we enjoy the warmer outdoor weather, but so does all the wildlife. Deer, turkeys, mice, songbirds, fox, rabbits, and more may leave droppings scattered in the grass. If you pets eat these droppings, they may get diarrhea and upset stomachs that must be treated with antibiotics. As much as possible, try to keep your pets away from wildlife areas to prevent problems. 

Some wild animals may also be a little more protective during the spring season when a lot of them are looking for mates and having babies.  Wild animals may be aggressive if your pets stumble upon them or their babies.  Take caution and monitor your animals closely while you’re outside to avoid bites, scratches, or even porcupine quills!

Bird watching is a fun hobby for many at this time of the year.  We stock our birdfeeders with yummy treats to entice the wild birds to visit.  While some treats are tasty for the birds, some of them such as suet (which is basically fat and seeds) can cause your pets to have severe pancreatitis, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.  To avoid this, put your bird feeders in areas where your pets don’t frequent. (This also keeps birds safe from becoming your cat or dog’s next hunting target)!


Flowers are one of my favorite parts of spring and summer. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but their fragrant smells are so calming.  While they are pretty, certain outdoor plants and flowers can be toxic to your pets.  Some examples include:

  • lilies which are toxic for cats and can cause kidney failure.
  • azaleas can cause vomiting and weakness or even heart failure in dogs and cats.
  • certain types of irises can cause drooling, lethargy, and diarrhea in dogs and cats. 

The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) website has a more complete list of toxic plants and how they affect our pets. Check out this great resource: (

Warmer weather means more outdoor time with your family – including your pets!  Taking some time to ensure that the outdoors are safe for your furry friends will allow everyone to have a relaxing escape outside!

Dr. HeintzDr. Heintz is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Her passion is helping all animals, whether furry, scaly, or feathered, lead long and healthy lives.