Being in Florida over the winter has many benefits: a constant flow of vitamin D from the sun, getting to know new and interesting people and their canine companions, and of course the fact that I don’t have to listen to my human complain about the snow and cold. On the other paw, being a farm dog transplant in Florida means dealing with a disturbing amount of environmental toxins spread on lawns, landscaping, golf courses, and farms. No joke — these chemicals can be seriously poisonous to dogs. Running free can be quite dangerous!
This Wellington season, we’re living in a rental house on the edge of a golf course. There are lovely sand golf cart trails, and that’s where we go walking several times a day. Within the first week of being there however, my eyes started to tear up, I got a 12-hour bout of intestinal hyper-function, and Thunderbear started sneezing. Tigger put us on higher doses of Colostrum and Terra Biota, and added more Asta-Zan to our daily meals. Our symptoms cleared up within two days. Still, she couldn’t figure out why we were getting these allergic reactions when our food hadn’t changed and we were receiving bottled water.
Then one morning we stepped out for a quick walk, and there, parked in front of a neighbor’s yard was a lawn pesticide truck. When I tell you Tigger freaked, I mean she FREAKED. She got us back in the house, closed all the windows and let out a string of swear words that I dare not repeat here. You see, the thing is, we canines use our noses a lot more than you humans. When we’re sniffing around bushes, or have our noses on the ground, we pick up a lot more than the calling cards of other canines. Also, our bare paws are in constant contact with the ground. This means we’re picking up whatever has been sprayed there, or transported by rain or seepage.
Less than a week after seeing the pesticide truck, a house further down the street — a place that backs up to one of the ponds on the golf course — had a sign out saying: “Pesticides: Do Not Walk On Until Dry.” Thunderbear and I thought for sure that Tigger would be dressing us in HAZMAT suits with masks and disposable paw booties for any future walks or sessions at the dog park.
Several studies have found that canine exposure to herbicide-treated lawns has been associated with significantly higher bladder cancer risk in dogs (Science of the Total Environment, volumes 456-457, July 2013). In a separate study on environmental contaminants poisonous to dogs, researchers measured the concentration of common herbicides in the urine of dogs whose owners applied those chemicals, along with those who did not. They found that the chemicals were detected in the urine of 14 of 25 households before lawn treatment, in 19 of 25 households after lawn treatment, and in 4 of 8 untreated households. Researchers point out that finding chemicals in the urine of dogs in untreated households indicates that the untreated lawns were contaminated through chemical drift, and/or the dogs were possibly walked in other areas that had been treated with herbicides.
We canines want to live long, happy lives in an environment that’s not poisonous to dogs. Doesn’t seem like so much to ask. Will you protect us from the toxic soup?
Kemosabe is a three year old Australian shepherd who, when he’s not on the road with Tigger, likes to hang out at BioStar — taste-testing products and herding the FedEx delivery guys.