Homeowners with lawns and pets face the dilemma of keeping their grass lush and weed-free while ensuring pets stay out of harm's way from herbicides that could be toxic to them. Herbicides to control weeds are broad spectrum biocides that can penetrate the skin or be inhaled while dogs and other pets like to run on and eat grass. Weed and feed product manufacturers urge users to follow their package directions exactly . This involves keeping pets off newly treated lawns. Others use products that are harmless to pets.
The lawn/pet issue is largely confined to back yards, which in many homes is the area pets use for elimination. This spot is usually in the rear of the yard, so the dog must cross an expanse of grass to get to it. Home and pet owners who use chemical weed and feed products are advised to keep animals off a newly treated lawn until the herbicide has been washed off the grass and soaked into the soil with enough water. Scotts Weed & Feed directions are to apply it on a dry day and then apply 1/2 inch of water, which takes up to three hours with a hose sprinkler or a daylong rain to wash into a yard's root zone. "Once the product is washed down into the root zone it is safe to let kids back on the lawn," state the directions.
For a "weed-and-feed" product called Turf Builder® with Plus 2® Weed Control, the company advises gardeners to wait for 24 hours before watering thoroughly, after which pets can return.
Since pets consider their neighbourhood their home, they do roam on neighbours' yards when let out. This can be an opportunity to pick up residue if a neighbour has just treated his lawn with an herbicide. Pet owners can consult with neighbours about applications and keep their dogs on a leash. Ater a daylong rain, the biocides are washed into the ground and little remains on the surface, so dogs and other pets can roam safely without picking up any traces. During dry weather, dogs should stay off grassy areas until they have been watered for several hours to soak the chemicals into the soil. Once the residue of the herbicide is washed off the grass, pets can be allowed on it safely.
Weed and feed products have been banned in municipalities like Edmonton, Alberta, to prevent biocides from getting into the water system. Like the University of California-Davis, they encourage turf management to create yards thick enough to control weeds. Pet owners can allow their pets on these grassy areas safely at any time. In other urban yards, pet owners must use caution, especially in parks, playing fields and other grassy areas. Some caretakers post caution signs after using herbicides so pet owners can keep their animals away until it is safe.
Pets pick up chemical residue from a weed and feed product by eating grass or licking the dust from their coats or paws, breathing the residual fumes or through absorption by the skin. Washing them may remove some of the chemicals but the safest protection is to keep them away from all treated areas until the chemicals have been thoroughly watered into the soil.