Summer Fun Safety Guide Part Two: Staying Safe at Home

In Summer Fun Safety Guide, Part One: Staying Safe on the Trails, I touched on things to keep in mind when enjoying the great outdoors with your pup.  In this post, allow me to bring some attention to matters closer to home—literally, your own backyard!  Let’s work together to keep your dog safe this summer!


I don’t know about you, but I love backyard barbecues.  So do my dogs!  Meat on the grill, flying Frisbees, music, friends, laughter…all key ingredients in the recipe for a good time.  If your dog accompanies you to your next backyard event, I’d like you to be cautious of a few things:

  • Corn cobs: Unless chewed into tiny pieces—and most dogs don’t—these barbecue staples can easily obstruct the intestines.
  • Rib bones: When improperly chewed, rib bones can block the gut and warrant emergency veterinary care.  Also rib meat can be too fatty for dogs with sensitive stomachs. 
  • Tennis balls: For the same reason as the above two items.
  • Skewers: Bamboo or metal shish kabob skewers are coated in tasty juices that attract curious and hungry pups.  Just imagine what could happen if a dog swallows one.  It’s not good. Take my word for it. 

Fido’s Flowers

Some outdoor plants warrant erring on the side of caution.  It may depend on the area of the world you inhabit as to which of these you may encounter, but do yourself and your dog a favor and file these names away to help keep your dog out of trouble in the yard:

  • Lily of the Valley and Foxglove: Once used to create human cardiac medications, a compound in these can cause seizures, heart arrhythmias, and gastrointestinal distress.
  • Sago Palm: Be particularly aware of this one. It’s very toxic to the stomach and liver. Seek immediate veterinary care if your dog ingests this plant.
  • Crocus: Both spring and fall varieties are poisonous, but the fall variety warrants more caution.
  • Lilies: Especially toxic to cats, lily ingestion by a cat or dog can cause severe stomach pain and/or kidney damage.
  • Also notable: Oleander, rhododendron, azalea, cyclamen, amaryllis, yew, and chrysanthemum.  For a comprehensive list of toxic plants, visit: For a comprehensive list of toxic plants, visit

Yard Chemicals

When protecting your home from small creatures of the verminous variety, read the labels of the products you are using! For example, some mouse and rat baits can inhibit normal blood clotting in dogs (this is treatable), while some other products cause severe permanent neurologic damage (not treatable unless caught very early). Know the toxicity of the products you are using and keep them suitably away from your furry family members. Here are a few more items to consider:

  • Compost: Decomposing organic matter smells fabulous to dogs—but it can contain molds called mycotoxins that also can cause neurologic problems.
  • Mulches: Here is another area where geography plays a part in your dog’s risk of exposure.  Fresh pine mulch when highly resinous (sap-rich!) is irritating to the stomach if eaten.  Cocoa mulch is made from cocoa bean shells. (Read: It’s chocolate!) It contains the same worrisome compounds found in chocolate candy. Plus, it smells good so dogs like to eat it!
  • Soil Additives and Fertilizers: Both organophosphates (conventional fertilizer) and blood and bone meal (more organic-style products) are toxic, the latter having a pleasant smell for dogs. I recommend keeping your dog inside when using these products. Thoroughly water the products into the soil before allowing your dog back into the area. 

Summer should be about enjoying the sunny skies, the warm evenings, and spending quality time with those you love. By being cautiously aware of potential dangers to your dog, you should be able to enjoy the season to its fullest. 

Disclaimer: This information is educational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis, or treatment.

Dr. Jen Deming

Jennifer Deming, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and member of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition. She strives to improve her patients' wellness through nutrition counseling and preventative medicine. Dr. Deming lives, works, and plays in the beautiful community of Durango, Colorado.

Main image courtesy of wildlife photographer and dog lover, Jaymi Heimbuch