Would you deliberately spray Roundup all over your bedding and clothes? Of course you wouldn’t – but you may be doing essentially the same thing to your dog if you use a commercial lawn care service.

To many pet owners, having a thriving, beautiful front and back yard is essential to pet health and happiness. They love to play, romp, and roll around on beautiful green grass, and keeping that grass thick and healthy only seems to contribute to our dogs’ wellbeing. Unfortunately, if you use certain lawn chemicals, you may be doing serious harm to your dog’s health.

According to a 2012 chemical exposure study of 263 dogs with canine malignant lymphoma, approximately 70 percent of those cases were attributed to exposure to common lawn pesticides applied by professional lawn services. Cases of advanced malignancy were found to have been nearly 200 percent more likely to have been exposed to home insecticides.

So, how can you keep your dog’s playground healthy and safe? While you certainly don’t want to expose your beloved pet to toxic chemicals, you also don’t want her picking up fleas and ticks. Here are a few alternatives that may help you keep your lawn and your dog pest-free and thriving.

Replace Chemicals with Compost.

Keep your lawn fed and healthy by spreading a nourishing compost over your grass. Not only are you ensuring a beneficial and diverse ecosystem for your lawn plants, you aren’t exposing your pets and family (and water reserves) to dangerous chemicals. While chemical lawn fertilizers may give your lawn an instant boost of growth, compost changes the composition of the soil, creating a thriving colony of organic matter and microbes that help plants combat common lawn diseases.

Use Pet-Safe Insect Repellants.

Chemical pesticides like commercial slug baits, fertilizer/pest control combinations, and anything containing disulfoton and malathion are extremely harmful to pets and children. Pest care solutions that are safe for dogs include:

  • Diatomaceous Earth. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) kills many insect species – including slugs, bedbugs, fleas, ticks, ants, and flies – but is safe enough to use directly on a dog’s coat (if the dog doesn’t have shellfish allergies). It is the desiccated remains of shellfish, and kills bugs by causing rapid and fatal dehydration.
  • Pet-safe essential oils. These include tea tree oil (good for repelling fleas), lemon eucalyptus and pine oil (good for repelling mosquitoes), and lavender oil (good for repelling ants). Make sure to dilute with either distilled water or a carrier oil.
  • Integrated Pest Management. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) isn’t a product or a single element – it’s a system that creates an inhospitable environment to diverse pests. It typically involves isolating the pests that are damaging your lawn and garden, and introducing elements that are harmful to them but safe for your property. For example, if you have fleas in your yard, you can plant flowers that attract ladybugs, which eat fleas.

Use Weed Preventers.

Some organic gardeners swear by vinegar weed control, but they don’t realize that it is toxic in concentrations high enough to be effective. Use a pet-friendly mulch, or pull out weeds by hand instead.

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