May 31, 2008 | Sarah Spearman

Well, it seems that our recent guest blog by Elizabeth Bublitz on 'Paw-friendly gardening' was a popular topic, judging by the busy comment queue! Luckily for us, Elizabeth is turning out to be an enthusiastic blogger. In addition to taking the time to respond to comments (thank you!), she has plenty more to teach us about making our gardens as safe and friendly as possible for our cherished pets. With all the rains we've had recently, she's just contributed a new post that you might find very informative. Read on...

The rains have been great for our gardens and have created a beautiful spring, but it’s posed a few problems for pets. 

Many homeowners don’t realize they have mushrooms in their backyard due to the moisture.  Before letting dogs outside, check the backyard, if they’re growing, promptly remove them, they are toxic.  They tend to grow around rotting wood stumps too– so if trees were recently cut down but the stumps remained, look in those areas for mushrooms. 

Also, due to the storms, high winds can blow open gates or blow down sections of fences and dogs can escape.  The most frequent emergency seen by veterinarians is a dog or cat being hit by a car.  There are so many ways to prevent this tragedy.  Always check fences and gates after high winds and storms before letting dogs in the yard.  If there is a pet door and nobody is home during the day, install a padlock to the gate so it won’t blow open.  If the fence is questionable during high winds, lock the pet door until the fence can be secured against high winds or until someone is home to monitor the dogs.  Always be prepared for dogs to escape by having them microchipped by a veterinarian or local animal shelter.  Microchips last forever and dogs will be returned when they are scanned. 

Another problem we’re seeing with dogs and high moisture are the problems left behind when they dig at the foundation.  Dogs tend to stay cool by digging (or nesting) along the foundation of the house.  By doing so, dogs are creating negative drainage which creates puddling.  In Colorado, we have bentonite in our soils – it is a mineral that expands when wet.  It is imperative to keep moisture away from foundations by creating positive drainage (i.e. - the area around your foundation should be higher than any other part of your yard) so water literally runs away from the foundation.  When moisture is away from the foundation, bentonite will not expand and the foundation will not crack.  With a low spot or depression next to the house (the grade is towards the foundation rather than away from it), water will collect, bentonite will expand and the foundation could crack due to the moisture.

When dogs dig, they create a depression or negative pitch into the foundation.  This allows for puddling thus bentonite expands creating foundation problems.  Depending on the size of the crack, the cost of repairing a foundation can be at least twenty thousand dollars or more.  An easy solution to prevent this is to install chicken wire between the mulch and the ground (or if there is landscape fabric, install it on top of it).  When dogs dig at their favorite spot, their paws hit the chicken wire and they stop digging.  However, the sides of the chicken wire must be protected because they’re very sharp and dogs can cut themselves.  Seal the ends of the cut chicken wire with duct tape or roll it into the fabric and pin it down with fabric pins. 

Lastly, high moisture and standing water will attract mosquitoes.  Infected mosquitoes carry heartworm so be sure your dogs are taking their heartworm preventative medicine every month.  They usually start in spring and end in fall.  Be sure to check with your veterinarian.

Elizabeth will be contributing regularly to our blog, so stay tuned for more educational messages about living (and gardening) with dogs and other pets. Her next class takes place in August 2008- join us for a fun evening of conversation and problem-solving for dog-lovers!

This post written by Celia Adamec.

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