Diana Bunch had just moved to a new house in Florida. All three of her dogs were having a blast exploring their new digs. Little did Diana know that danger was lurking in the beautifully landscaped yard. One of her dogs, a Yorkie mix named Coco, ate half a seed from a large sago palm and started throwing up almost immediately.
“Actually, all three of my dogs got into the tree in different ways, but Coco was the one most affected,” Diana said. “She started vomiting within a few minutes, and we took all three dogs to the ER hospital within the hour.”
Tragically, Coco did not survive. Unbeknownst to Diana, sago palms are highly toxic if ingested. All parts of sago palms are poisonous, but the seeds are the most deadly. According to PetPoisonHelpline.com, the primary toxic component in sago palms is cycasin, which causes liver failure.
“There are so many of these beautiful trees in the warmer states, but many people are unaware of how toxic every part of the tree is to animals and people,” Diana said.
How safe is that new home you just moved into? When you have dogs, it’s a good idea to inspect the house and yard thoroughly upon move in — you just never know what the previous resident left behind, or what dangers might be lurking in your new yard’s lovely landscaping. Be sure to include these six items on your checklist.
Sago palms are just one of many toxic plants and flowers commonly used in outdoor landscaping. When moving to a new home, take an inventory of the yard’s plants, trees, flowers, and check them against the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants list. Also look at mulch and other gardening items, as cocoa mulch in particular is toxic to dogs. Remove anything dangerous or potentially dangerous. If you can’t ID a particular plant, ask a gardener for help.
Having a fenced-in yard is fantastic for dogs, but only if that fence is secure. Walk the perimeter of your fence and inspect it for holes, loose boards or gaps near the bottom. Take note of any weak spots or areas of concern, and repair or reinforce them ASAP.
Fences are great at keeping dogs in, but they can’t always keep wildlife out. Coyotes, bears, bobcats, mountain lions and snakes all pose a threat. Even hawks and eagles can be a concern if you have a very small dog. Talk to your new neighbors and ask what types of wild animals live in your area and what they do to keep their pets safe. If you’re concerned about your dog’s safety outside, don’t let him hang out in the yard unaccompanied, especially after dark.
Poisons used to control pests in the yard are extremely dangerous for dogs. It isn’t only the poison itself—dogs have died after eating a rat that had consumed rat poison. If you can, ask the previous owner or landlord if they ever treated the yard with snail and slug bait, ant bait, or rodent traps or poison. If that isn’t possible, inspect the yard carefully, looking for traps, poison containers or snail bait pellets.
Survey the yard and get rid of any water that collects in unused flowerpots, buckets or other containers. Stagnant water harbors mosquitoes, which transmit heartworms to pets, as well as zika and other mosquito-born virus to humans. Standing water can also attract unwanted wildlife, and harbor infectious agents like the parasite Giardia and the bacterium that causes leptopsirosis.
When people move out, they often leave unwanted odd and ends in the garage. Take a close look at this space to make sure it’s free from common toxic substances like antifreeze, brake fluid, motor oil, paint, fertilizer, weed killer and pesticides.
Giving your new house a safety check will make your transition a happy one. You will all feel more comfortable in your new home once it’s as safe as possible for your precious pups.