Are Tomatoes Dangerous to Dogs? Experts reveal dangers in the garden and safe alternatives for your veg patch

With the weather warming up we’re going to be spending more time outside in the garden - but if you have a dog there are some hidden dangers.

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Dogs love gardens - but they need to be safe.Dogs love gardens - but they need to be safe.
Dogs love gardens - but they need to be safe.

The garden is a great place for pets and owners alike to relax and exercise – however, research shows around 7.8 million pets in the UK could be exposed to poisonous garden plants.

To protect all pets from potential hazards lurking in gardens, TrustedHousesitters has worked with expert vet Dr Lily Richards to offer some crucial advice.

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From identifying toxic plants in vegetable patches to creating dedicated pet zones, their advice helps owners strike a balance between a beautiful, flourishing garden and all-important pet safety.

Cultivate a pet-friendly garden and keep beloved pets enjoying the outdoors safely with these six expert tips. 


Learn about dangerous toxic plants

If you have pets, it's vital you choose the right plants for your garden. Vet Lily Richards says:

"Some examples of commonly grown toxic garden plants and vegetable patch additions include onions, garlic, chives, oregano, leeks, daffodils, lilies and rhododendrons. It is always better before planting to check the suitability of plants and vegetables around pets if you plan on sharing the space."

One surprising vegetable patch addition that could put your pets at risk is tomatoes. While the ripe fruit itself is safe, the stems, leaves or unripe green tomatoes contain glycoalkaloids called solanine and tomatine, which are toxic for cats and dogs. Owners should always exercise caution when growing tomatoes around pets. If you have a pet who likes to dig, you should be even more careful with what you're growing in the garden, as the bulbs of plants are usually the most toxic. 

Opt for pet-safe plants, fruit, and vegetables in your garden, such as dill, marigold flowers, magnolia bushes, rosemary, fennel, basil, or carrots. In addition, utilising hanging planters, raised beds, or large containers can help deter pets from accessing potentially dangerous plants.

Protect your vegetables – and your pet 

If you have a vegetable patch, you need to protect your vegetables as well as your pet. Lily Richards suggests that pet owners, "Consider raised beds or hanging baskets to keep your pets and veg safe. Avoid chemical products on or around your plants, such as slug pellets, insecticides, weed killers or growth products. You can also try organic alternatives and compost as a natural, safer alternative."

If possible, you should also fence off any pet-free zones – but ensure you choose the appropriate fencing for your pet. "Be aware of the types of fences for each species, as rabbits and guinea pigs have different requirements to keep them safe than dogs", Lily explains.

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Any composting areas should also be fenced off. Compost can be highly toxic to dogs and other animals due to fungi that grow in the decomposing plant or food material. In addition, avoid using food items that are toxic to pets in your compost pile, such as onions, garlic, coffee grounds, and chocolate.

Richards recommends monitoring or leashing your pets when they are in the garden to ensure they do not enter pet-free zones, which is especially important during the initial stages of training or when introducing new pets to the garden.

Opt for paw-safe materials

As the weather heats up, so do certain surfaces in the garden. Hot paving slabs and tarmac can quickly pose a burn threat to your pet's paws during hot weather. Some lower-quality artificial grasses can also be dangerous for pets, as the synthetic material can get up to 30°C hotter than real grass in the sun. The quality and brand of your fake grass play a part, so if you prefer a fake lawn, shop around for a high-quality, pet-friendly option. 

If you’re worried about surfaces being too hot, always check them with the back of your hand before allowing your pet’s paws to explore. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s far too hot for their delicate paws. For pets, the ideal surfaces in your garden are real grass and wooden decking. It’s also great to have trees and shrubs that provide plenty of shade in summer.

Create a pet playground and digging pit

Digging is a natural behaviour for dogs. If your pet enjoys digging and you're worried about them ruining your garden, creating a dedicated pet playing area with all their favourite toys and a sand pit for digging is ideal. You can also fill up a paddling pool for your pup to cool down in summer. 

Creating a dedicated playing area where your pet can thrive will stimulate and preoccupy them, keeping them from damaging other parts of the garden. Play areas also provide essential enrichment for dogs, particularly high-energy dogs, and they can reduce boredom and the likelihood of developing behavioural issues.

Choose grass and patio treatments carefully

"Consider weed killers and patio or grass treatment products carefully,” vet Lily Richards warns, as many weed killers are not pet-safe. 

Lily explains, “Pets that walk across treated areas are liable to transfer product onto their feet and groom it off, ingesting it later. This could lead to toxicities and serious illnesses in pets. Consider natural or pet-safe products, or if you must use potentially harmful products, ensure your pet doesn't have access to the garden until there is no residue of the product left. This is particularly crucial if considering herbivorous pets like rabbits or guinea pigs – it is never suitable to use chemical products on areas they may graze."

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If you suspect that your pet has consumed anything harmful, take them to the vet immediately. Common signs of poisoning include diarrhoea, drooling, vomiting and tremors. If possible, Richards recommends bringing a container with the product your pet ingested with you, so that the vet can best determine how to treat your pet.

Watch out for wildlife

Some garden wildlife can be dangerous for pets – but products to remove them can also pose a risk.

“Gardens often invite nature and wildlife, so keep an eye out for slugs and snails”, Lily Richards says. “These creatures can carry parasites and infectious diseases, such as lungworm, that can cause serious disease in your pets. Avoid using non-organic slug pellets to keep these critters at bay, though, as these are also toxic to your pets.”

The garden can also be a hotspot for fleas and ticks, especially if you have long grass – but your pet will remain safe with the right, vet-approved preventative measures. Speak to your vet about the most appropriate parasite protection for your cat or dog, and check your pet's fur after being outside.

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