The Whole Dog

Lush Lawn or Thriving Dog?

By Dr. Jeannie Thomason

 Lush Lawn or Thriving Dog – Do We Have A Choice?

Several years ago, a study was conducted over a 6 year period at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, regarding the dogs and their exposure to lawn pesticides, specifically those applied by professional lawn care companies. It was found that dogs that were exposed to lawn pesticides had a 70% higher risk of canine malignant lymphoma (CML) by as much as 70%!

The dogs in the study that were found to have the highest risk for acquiring CML were living in homes where pesticides and herbicides were professionally applied, as well as homes where owners themselves used lawn care products containing insect growth regulators, aka chemical killing agents.  

According to The Merck Veterinary Manual:

“Canine malignant lymphoma is a progressive, fatal disease caused by the malignant clonal expansion of lymphoid cells. Although lymphoid cell neoplastic transformation is not restricted to specific anatomic compartments, lymphoma most commonly arises from organized lymphoid tissues including the bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes, and spleen. In addition to these primary and secondary lymphoid organs, common extranodal sites include the skin, eye, CNS, testis, and bone. Lymphoma is reported to be the most common hematopoietic neoplasm in dogs, with an incidence reported to approach 0.1% in susceptible, older dogs. Despite the prevalence of malignant lymphoma, its etiology remains poorly characterized. Hypothesized etiologies include retroviral infection, environmental contamination with phenoxyacetic acid herbicides, magnetic field exposure, chromosomal abnormalities, and immune dysfunction.”

Another study performed at the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Purdue University concluded that the majority of  garden and lawn chemicals are linked to canine bladder cancer, including common herbicides containing 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), 4-chloro-2-methylphenoxypropionic acid (MCPP) and/or dicamba.

The dogs’ in the study were exposed to the chemicals via: ingestion, inhalation, and transdermally (via the skin).

The study showed that most of the dogs from homes using the chemicals, had herbicides in their urine. Since some dogs from homes that did not use the products also had herbicides in their urine, researchers concluded the wind could carry the chemicals up to 50 ft from the site where they were applied.

I am not sure that they took into account whether the dogs were ever taken to parks or allowed to walk on neighbor’s lawn or roll and play in a community green area but it is sure something to consider with our dogs.

The traditional method of lawn care is done by spreading toxic, synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer over the entire lawn that are potentially harmful to  pets, children, and the environment.

Synthetic fertilizers contain fast-acting chemicals made with fossil fuels like Natural Gas and coal. These synthetic chemicals can not only burn the grass but they very often kill earthworms and beneficial organisms in the soil as well. Excess fertilizer then leaches into nearby waterways, causing pollution and harmful algae blooms.

Be aware that cats and dogs don’t need to eat any grass or dirt to become very ill.  Products with toxic chemicals can be absorbed through their skin if they roll in the grass, or stick to their fur or hair and the pads of their paws.  When your dog or cat comes in and cleans her feet and hair with her tongue, she ingests any chemicals on the lawn or garden.

Why not take the leap and go “organic” and truly “green” with your lawn?   Organic lawn care is all about producing a healthy lawn and soil, thus a healthy eco-system where earthworms and beneficial organisms will thrive as well as you and your dogs.

Pets who have ingested toxic fertilizers or pesticides, especially ones with high percentages of phosphorus and potassium compounds, can show symptoms such as vomiting, drooling, diarrhea or lethargy.

More severe symptoms such as tremors or seizures may be seen if toxic levels of chemicals or pesticides, or even high concentrations of iron, have been ingested.  Chemical burns have been seen on the pads of the feet after pets have been on a recently treated lawn.

There are so many benefits to having an organic lawn and garden!  It has been shown that an organic lawn has roots that grow deeper into the soil, which makes the grass less vulnerable to drought, weeds, insects, disease, and other stressors!

Having an organic lawn and garden is much like caring for you dog naturally –  this produces a strong, balanced immune system.   Yes,  yards, gardens,  grass, flowers, trees, shrubs have immune systems too.


Natural lawn care:  The Garden Hotline website has great downloadable brochures for free.

Organic Lawn Care Tips

Synthetic Vs. Organic Lawn and Garden Care 

You Can Either Have A Lush Green Lawn Or A Dog But You Cannot Have Both . . . Or Can You?


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  1. […] A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post titled “Lush Lawn Or Thriving Dog […]

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