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A Guide to Pesticide Safety for Pet Owners

A Guide to Pesticide Safety for Pet Owners

When you need to use a pesticide for one reason or another, you may worry about the effect that applying the pesticide has on your pets that are in the vicinity. Despite those worries, it may be necessary to apply the pesticide.


Pesticides are helpful in many ways: they control various pests and disease carriers, such as mosquitoes, ticks, rats and mice. Pesticides are used in agriculture to control weeds, insect infestation and diseases.


Important Uses of Pesticides


  • Algaecides – kill and/or slowing the growth of algae.
  • Antimicrobials – control germs and microbes such as bacteria and viruses.
  • Disinfectants – control germs and microbes such as bacteria and viruses.
  • Fungicides – control fungal problems like molds, mildew, and rust.
  • Herbicides – kill or inhibit the growth of unwanted plants, also known as weeds.
  • Insecticides – control insects.
  • Insect Growth Regulators – disrupt the growth and reproduction of insects.
  • Rodenticides – kills rodents like mice, rats, and gophers.
  • Wood Preservatives – make wood resistant to insects, fungus and other pests.


Read the Label First: Protect Your Pets


When it is necessary to apply pesticides that may be dangerous to pets, the first thing you want to do is to read the label of the pesticide you are using.


Our pets rely on us for protection, so you are the first line of defense for your pet against the potential harmful effects of a pesticide. Labels contain important information about how to store and use the pesticide, as well as additional safety precautions.


They also provide information about first aid information and where to call for help should a pet suffer contamination from pesticide.


Follow the Safety Precautions


The labels of pesticides will inform you about what safety precautions you need to take when applying them.


It will indicate whether you need to open windows, wear gloves, and whether it is dangerous to touch or breathe the product. These safety precautions should not be taken lightly when you have a pet around, because their tolerance for pesticide exposure may be much lower than yours.


Additional care should be taken with very small pets, like cats and rodents.


Keep Products in Original Containers


Storing pesticides in containers that are not designed to hold dangerous substances is dangerous and not recommended. These containers have important information on the label that might be forgotten if the container is thrown away.


Make sure that your pesticide containers have tight fitting lids to avoid spilling, which might expose your pet to deadly substances.


If you mix the product in a separate container as indicated on the label instructions, use all of the mixture or dispose of it, unless you label the new container for use in the future.


Follow guidelines for disposing of or recycling pesticide containers.


Keep Pets Away from Products


Keeping products out of reach of pets is basic common sense when you want to protect your pets, but there are additional precautions to be aware of that will ensure your pet’s safety.


One precaution is to avoid spraying or storing pesticides near pet water or food dishes.


If pesticide happens to spill, remove your pet from the area until it is properly cleaned.


Know Where to Call for Help


Even when you are careful about protecting pets, accidents can happen. Make sure that you have your local poison control center phone number ready, as well as your veterinarian. When you call, have the label ready to answer any questions about what type of product you are using.


Use Extra Care When Using Pesticide Bait


Pesticide baits used for the elimination of certain pests, like rats, mice and gophers as well as slugs and snails, are often prepared with food ingredients that can be attractive to pets.


One such bait contains zinc phosphide to bait gophers who may be tearing up your garden. The zinc phosphide in this product is attractive to dogs, who may dig it up and eat it.


Depending on the amount ingested, zinc phosphide can cause vomiting, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and death.  It’s important to protect your pet by placing these baits in a place where a pet cannot reach them.


Other Precautions When Applying Pesticides Around Pets


You will want to keep the following in mind if you’re a pet owner.


  • Remove pets from the area before you begin applying pesticides.
  • Remove all pet toys, chew bones, food bowls and bedding from the area as well.
  • Keep pets away from treated areas until the pesticide is completely dry and the area has been well ventilated. The label may contain more specific instructions.
  • Cover fish tanks to prevent liquid and vapors from entering the tank. If you use foggers (bug bombs), always turn off fish tank pumps during the application.
  • Pets can be poisoned by eating poisoned prey. This is known as secondary (or relay) poisoning. Consider selecting a bait product with lower potential for secondary poisoning.
  • Granular lawn products may require keeping the pets off the treated area for 24 hours or longer while the granules dissolve and the treated area dries. Check the label for specific instructions.


Ask Questions


When you are hiring a pest control service to apply pesticides in or around your home, it’s important to ask questions and communicate with them concerning your pets.


Ask specific questions about the type of the pesticides they are applying and whether they are safe to use around pets. Ask them how you can protect your pet when they are applying the pesticide and what precautions you need to take.


When you call to arrange the treatment, ask if they can provide you with written information about what products they are using, so you have the that available should you pet experience a reaction.


A professional pest control service will be happy to address your concerns regarding your pets.


When applying pesticides around pets, it is better to use a little extra care and take the steps to ensure their safety, rather than put them in danger. It is definitely a situation where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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