The white flags are back, a sign of spring here in suburbia. I saw them yesterday as I walked with Jackson and Tinkerbell through our neighborhood, and I felt the annual flood of stress, frustration and disappointment that I feel every spring when so many homeowners in our neighborhood hire traditional lawn care companies to spray their yards with chemicals in pursuit of the perfect expanse of green grass. You know the chemicals that I mean, the ones that the industry says are so safe that they fed it to beagles as part of their testing and did not see any negative results, but that still require little white warning flags to let the world know that the products have been applied so that we do not walk or frolic in that grass for 48 hours.
This is not the first time I’ve written about this topic, and it won’t be the last. In the past I have written several blogs on the topic of dogs, lawn care products, and studies that link increased rates of cancer in dogs on chemically treated grass. You can read more about this topic at: Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs and No Dogs on the Grass: Studies on Canine Cancer and Lawn Care Products.
I have to admit, I dream of a world in which all homeowners realize the benefits of using an organic lawn care company that relies on all natural lawn care techniques instead of broadleaf weedkillers. A world in which we can watch our kids and dogs rolling around on the grass and not have to worry about whether or not the study done by veterinary team at Purdue University or the task force created to promote the use of 2,4-D had the accurate study. A world in which we can reduce the amount of plant waste that we send to landfills because we are using compost and grass clippings to achieve the American dream of a lush, green lawn.
I will also admit that after losing two dogs in row to cancer, the fear of any unseen toxins that my dogs are walking through sometimes makes me want to avoid walks in our neighborhood entirely. Just the other day I did not see the white flags in a neighbor’s yard until long after Jackson and Tinkerbell had thoroughly sniffed a large portion of his treated grass. But I cannot keep them in a protective bubble, simply because it is not fair to them to deny them the simple canine joy of going out and exploring the world with me.
Until we live in a world that embraces natural lawn care, here are the things that I do for my own dogs in an effort to minimize the effects of these chemicals in our lives.
Avoid Treated Lawns
Depending where you live, this can be extremely hard. Like I mentioned above, just the other day we the dogs and I walked through a yard in which some of the flags were missing at one end of the property, so I did not see them until we had walked the full length of the yard.
Try to avoid treated lawns and know that Purdue University determined in 2013 that lawn care products drift substantially from the area in which they are actually applied. As you see lawn care flags, make notes so that you can adjust your walking route and avoid those lawns on your daily walks. Shorten your dog’s leash when walking through affected yards and stick to the sidewalk or cross the street if possible.
You can also contact your local park department to inquire about what products are used in your municipal parks and if they have a routine schedule for when they apply pesticides. Look for natural areas that are not treated for weeds and take your dog on fun adventures to those locations, using an all natural tick preventative since the more natural the terrain, the more likely you are to encounter pests like ticks.
Post Walk Paw Wash & Wipe
1. Wash all paws in a foot soak using water with apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup vinegar per gallon of water) or an organic pet shampoo. Swoosh the paw through the water and use your fingers to massage the paws for a few second while in the soak. Rinse thoroughly in a second container of plain water and then dry well, including between the toe pads and webbing for breeds with webbed feet.
2. Wipe the entire dog from nose to tail with a damp cloth, including their legs, belly, nose and jowls. You can also use the same ratio of apple cider vinegar to water to soak the cloth or spray on them with a spray bottle, avoiding the eyes.
3. Wash my own feet (if wearing sandals or flip flops), ankles and calves to keep from spreading toxins on the floor, furniture and bedding that the dogs lay upon. This is also a good idea for owners whose dogs like to lick human toes or feet.
Note: this is not intended as veterinary advice. Always consult with your veterinarian before adding any food or supplement to your dog’s diet.
MicroFlora Plus or other probiotic for dogs: many experts believe that digestive health has a positive impact on an animal’s immune system. Although the food that I feed has a prebiotic and probiotic in it, I also add MicroFlora Plus to my dog’s bowls.
Wholistic Pet Organics diatomaceous earth: Scientific research has indicated that diatomaceous earth has a detoxifying property to it, so I add food grade diatomaceous earth from Wholistic Pet. Just make sure you purchase food grade diatomaceous earth, not the variety that is sold for outdoor use. You can read about more uses for diatomaceous earth for humans and dogs here: https://www.tipsbulletin.com/diatomaceous-earth/
Watch for our next blog in which we talk about positive links to share with friends and family to encourage all natural lawn care practices.