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How to Kill Weeds & Grass With No Harm to Pets

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Barring pulling them out by hand, there are many great weed control options to try out that won’t harm your pets. Weeds are just a natural part of garden and lawn care. Unfortunately, many of the chemicals on the market that are used to eradicate weeds may be very toxic. Fortunately, some safe, effective options are probably already around your house that will kill weeds and grass but not harm your pets.

Homemade Grass Killer Safe for Pets

  • Boiling hot water poured right onto the desired area is an effective, easy option. Add salt or vinegar for additional strength. This will affect the quality of the soil, so be cautious when applying it as surrounding plants also will be affected. Stubborn weeds may involve several applications.
  • Vinegar is an effective and safe weed killer. Acetic acid in vinegar is a herbicidal, drawing moisture out of plant material, killing the weeds, but also any other plant, so it should be used carefully. Vinegar may not travel all the way to the root of the plant, so it may take a few applications. A combination of vinegar and dish soap, at a 1 gallon to 1 tablespoon ratio, will help the vinegar stick to the leaves instead of running off.
  • Sugar makes soil harmful for plant growth. It also attracts pests, so mix it with equal parts of spicy cayenne pepper or chili powder. Spread it generously over the soil where the weeds have taken root. Be careful to keep the mixture away from the plants you don’t want affected.
  • Liberally applied cornmeal atop the soil prevents seeds from germinating. It is not helpful in fighting existing weeds, but it helps stop new seeds from developing. It can be safely distributed around existing landscape plants to thwart new, unwelcome growth. Also, it works well to kill ants because it is indigestible to them. Spread it around an anthill, and the ants will eat the cornmeal and starve to death.
  • Grass and weeds need sunlight, so if you take sunlight away, they perish. Mulch works well to help prevent sunlight getting through, yet it allows water to penetrate the soil, allowing mature plant life to thrive. Mulch can include paper, cardboard, leaves, evergreen needles, bark, rocks or anything nontoxic that will let water in and keep sunlight out.

Ortho Weed B Gon and Your Pets

Herbicides like Ortho Weed B Gon, if ingested by your pets, can cause vomiting and diarrhea. It can possibly be deadly for senior animals and pets with compromised immune systems. If Ortho Weed B Gone was recently applied and a pet licked it while it was still wet, your pet may experience mild stomach upset. Once the treated area is dry, however, the chemical has reached the root of the plant, and the lawn can be considered animal safe.

Pet-Safe Creeping Charlie Killer

Creeping Charlie, creeping Jenny, ground ivy, (Glechoma hederacea spp.), is an aggressive common invasive weed that can ruin the look of your lawn. Creeping Charlie is a low-growing perennial with an extensive root system, and it loves to live and spread in shady, moist areas. It can be very difficult to eradicate by the hand-pulling method alone because it breaks off easily at the stem and will re-root and thrive.

Pet-safe creeping Charlie killing methods involve the use of a claw-shaped cultivator that lifts the runners and makes it is easy to pull out the plant. Follow that up with an application of one of the homemade grass killers that are safe for pets. If that’s too much work, use a non-selective herbicide labeled “safe for pets and children.” The best time to apply herbicides is in the fall.

Homemade Crabgrass Killer

In tufts, crabgrass can be cute and charming. However, it can rapidly get out of hand and spread to your entire lawn. A single weed can give out thousands of seeds. In hot and dry conditions, it can grow vigorously before dying in the fall.

You can make a homemade crabgrass killer product to get rid of crabgrass. As described, use vinegar, boiling water, cornmeal (prevention only) and newspaper. Place a thick layer over the crabgrass, and it will die due to lack of sunlight.

Killing Grass With Salt

Another staple of the household that works wonders is killing grass with salt. Because it makes the soil hostile to plants, it should be used only to kill weeds and plants in areas where you want nothing else to grow. Spread it generously and then water it down. It can also be mixed into a vinegar and soap solution to increase its potency.

How to Kill Weeds & Grass With No Harm to Pets. Pets are family too, and you don’t want to inadvertently harm your furry friend by spreading an herbicide that can poison him if he licks a plant in the treated area. Options exist for organic weed control, and many of these are nonselective to kill the grass as …

Weed killers may go from plant to pooch

Lawn chemicals used to kill weeds may end up in your pet

Dogs can pick up toxic weed killers from treated lawns, a new study finds.

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September 24, 2015 at 6:00 am

Many people treat their lawns with weed killers — also known as herbicides — to rid themselves of unwanted plants, such as dandelions. Most people know to keep small children away from the grass after it’s been sprayed. That’s because these chemicals can be dangerous if children touched the treated lawn and then put their hands to their mouths. New data show that herbicides also can end up in dogs. The evidence: It comes out the other end in the animals’ urine.

Angus Murphy studies plants at the University of Maryland in College Park. He began to wonder if dogs might be exposed to herbicides when he saw neighborhood signs that warned a lawn had been sprayed with weed killers. “I would see the dogs running through the yards when the grass was still wet,” he recalls. “I looked at the signs and they said don’t re-enter [the lawn] for 24 hours or until the treatment was dry.”

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So he teamed up with other scientists to investigate how much weed killer might come off the grass while it was wet — and whether those chemicals might go from plant to pooch.

First, Murphy and his group had to find out how long herbicide sprays can be brushed off with casual contact. They applied the same amount of three different kinds of weed killers to different patches of grass.

But the amount of chemical coming off grass might change if the grass was wet or dry. So the scientists added herbicides to green grass that was wet (to simulate a recent rain) or dry. To find out if it made a difference whether the plants were dead or alive, the researchers also applied weed killer to brown grass.

Afterward, the scientists placed pieces of cloth on wooden blocks. They dragged the blocks across each patch of grass to see how much herbicide came off. They first did this a few minutes after the spraying. Then, they dragged clean cloth blocks across the area one hour, one day, two days and three days after the weed killer had been applied.

In green grass, two of the weed killers rubbed off on both tries the first day, but not after that. A third chemical known as 2,4-D — for 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic (Di-KLOR-oh-fen-OX-ee-uh-SEE-tic) acid — rubbed off onto the cloth for two full days after application. And on dry, brown lawns, 2,4-D was still coming off the grass even three days later. That was long after the blades of grass were dry.

“I was pleased to see there was data on brown lawns,” says Mark Carroll. A plant scientist, also at the University of Maryland, he was not involved in the new study. “We often don’t think to do that stuff” — check for a late effect of something on different types of targets. But the researchers did that and turned up a surprise, Carroll notes. That signals that “if you apply these products to a brown lawn, it’s going to hang around a little longer.”

From lawn to dog

So the herbicides were coming off the grass. But unless the chemicals get into animals, it might not pose risks. So Murphy and his group recruited 33 dogs and their owners. They included people who sprayed weed killer on their lawns and those who did not. Then, before and after lawns had been treated with herbicides, the researchers collected the dogs’ pee. (“I’m happy to say I wasn’t there to do it,” Murphy says. “It was one of the students from the vet school.”)

Most dogs — including half of those whose owners did not treat their lawns — had herbicides in their urine. Among dogs whose owners did spray weed killers, 14 out of 25 animals had chemicals in their urine before the latest spray of their lawn. After spraying, 19 out of 25 dogs were excreting the chemicals.

“The herbicides move into the animals and it’s detectable,” says Murphy. And as might be expected, “the greatest uptake and highest levels were where the homeowners were applying [these chemicals],” he notes.

“What surprised us the most was the extent to which there was uptake in the animals when [their lawns] weren’t having treatments,” he says. These animals appear to get exposed during walks in the neighborhood. This can include grassy areas where others have used weed killers. Murphy and his colleagues published their findings July 1 in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

“I think it’s a neat combination of work, where you’ve got half the team looking at the fate of the herbicide and the other half looking at the potential to affect dogs,” says Carroll.

The dogs may lick lawn chemicals off of the wet grass. It’s also possible the herbicide collects on their fur and that the pets lick it off later. But if the chemicals are ending up in the animals’ pee, then they’re definitely being exposed. Murphy does not yet know if this is a problem. His group did not look for signs of harm.

Still, the scientists say, the new data suggest that if the label on the weed killer says to keep off the lawn, that should apply not only to people but also to pets. “Anything you apply to the environment, you’ve got to have some respect for it,” Carroll says. Those instructions on the label are important. They are usually required by law to keep people and their belongings safe. “But a lot of people don’t read the label,” Carroll notes. “If you’re going to make the choice to apply the product,” he says, any responsible owner also will “keep the dog off the yard.”

Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

canid The biological family of mammals that are carnivores and omnivores. The family includes dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals and coyotes. Members of this family are known as canines.

chemical A substance formed from two or more atoms that unite (become bonded together) in a fixed proportion and structure. For example, water is a chemical made of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. Its chemical symbol is H2O.

2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid Also called 2,4-D, this is a man-made chemical meant to mimic a plant hormone. These plant hormones, called auxins, are toxic to some plants at high doses, so 2,4-D is commonly used as a weed-killer or herbicide.

excrete To remove waste products from the body, such as in the urine.

herbicide A weed killer. Some herbicides kill all types of plants, but others are “selective.” That means they are designed to kill certain unwanted plants (considered weeds) but leave desirable plants, such as lawn grasses or crops, untouched.

toxic Poisonous or able to harm or kill cells, tissues or whole organisms. The measure of risk posed by such a poison is its toxicity.

Citations

R. Cernasky. “Organic food starts to prove its worth” Science News for Students. August 21, 2015.

S. Milius. “Pesticides offer bees a risky allure.” Science News for Students. May 19, 2015.

S. Oosthoek. “Deep-sea fish show signs of pollution.” Science News for Students. April 19, 2015.

A. Pearce Stevens. “How to limit the need for pesticides.” Science News for Students. January 14, 2014.

A. Pearce Stevens. “Why are bees vanishing?”Science News for Students. January 10, 2014.

R. Kwok. “Weed wars.” Science News for Students. December 7, 2011.

Original Journal Source: D.W. Knapp et al. Detection of herbicides in the urine or pet dogs following home lawn chemical application. Science of the Total Environment. Vol 456. July 2015. p. 34. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.03.019.

About Bethany Brookshire

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Bethany Brookshire is the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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Dogs love to roll around in the grass. But if there is weed killer around, it could end up on — and in — our furry pals.