When Pets and the Environment Don't Mix
October 18, 2022
Sarah Blount and Emily Kamin

As we dig into the dog days of summer, take a minute for a quick refresher on some of the environmental hazards that can face your canine (or feline!) companion, to help them steer clear and have a fun, healthy summer. Read on to test your knowledge about pet safety, and see if you can identify some common dangers that your pet may face in both indoor and outdoor environments.


It's a wild world out there! However, with the proper base of knowledge, you can chaperone your furry friend when they're outside to help protect them from some of these common hazards.

Many ornamental lawn plants can prove dangerous if consumed by your cat or dog. Check out the full list from the ASPCA's “Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List,” but a few common examples include:

  • English ivy: A common groundcover, this ivy is toxic to pets if consumed, and can lead to gastrointestinal issues.
  • Daisy: While daisies might be a welcome sign of spring, they can lead to vomiting, incoordination, and skin problems in dogs and cats.
  • Azalea: These large bushes are prized across the country for their vibrant displays of color. However, if consumed by your pet, they can lead to gastrointestinal problems and cardiac failure.

If you are concerned that your pet has consumed any of these plants or foods, call your vet immediately. If your vet is unavailable, ASPCA runs a 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center.

It's not just lawns that can be dangerous—bodies of water can hide threats to your pets as well. Some types of algae can pose serious dangers to an animal's health should the pet come into contact with the contaminated water or happen to drink from a contaminated waterbody. Learn more about recognizing these blooms, as well as how to keep yourself and your pet safe while outside. Want to help reduce the threat of an algal bloom? Pick up after your pets. Pet waste contains the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, and when the pet waste is washed into local waterways during a storm, these nutrients have a detrimental effect on water quality, hurting local plants and animals through nutrient pollution and contributing to harmful algal blooms. To learn more about other ways you might be contributing to water quality issues, check out this infographic or challenge yourself to become a Watershed Sleuth.

Finally, pets can pick up disease-carrying ticks while outside, so it's important to always check your pet when they come back inside to help keep them safe from disease. Learn more about this important step, as well as how to keep your pet safe from other dangers posed by climate change here


While your home might be your haven, it could still be presenting some hazards to your pets. Several types of common household plants and cut flowers can make dogs and cats uncomfortable, ill, or even prove deadly. Familiarize yourself with this list from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and make sure to keep any of these plants on the list out of reach of your pets. A few examples of plants to avoid:

  • Amaryllis: This flowering plant, commonly seen in the wintertime as a gift, is toxic to both dogs and cats, and can lead to gastrointestinal issues and tremors.
  • Poinsettia: This is another winter-time culprit that can trigger vomiting in cats and dogs. While these red and pink plants have a big reputation for being poisonous to pets, they are not among the most dangerous indoor plants.
  • Calla Lily: While the Calla Lily is a common and beautiful addition to a cut flower arrangement, if consumed by your pet they can be painful and vomit-inducing.

It's not just plants that can pose a threat to your pets—many of the foods that people enjoy every day can be dangerous or even deadly if shared with your cat or dog. For the full list, please consult the ASPCA's “People Food to Avoid Feeding your Pets.” Some of them, such as chocolate, you may already be familiar with as a no-no for Fido, but a few of the lesser-known ones include:

  • Coffee: The caffeine in your cup of joe (or soda, or energy drink) is the main culprit here. Cats and dogs are more sensitive to this stimulant, which can cause gastrointestinal issues, seizures, and can even prove fatal.
  • Macadamia nuts: Within 12 hours of eating these nuts, dogs can experience vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia.
  • Onions, garlic, and chives: These are more of a concern for cats, but dogs are also at risk if they consume a large enough amount, which can lead to stomach problems and red blood cell damage.

If you are concerned that your pet has consumed any of these plants or foods, call your vet immediately. If your vet is unavailable, ASPCA runs a 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center.

By taking these environmental hazards into account, you can make sure that you and Fido both enjoy a safe, fun National Dog Day this Sunday, and every day!