Bugs are rarely welcome guests. They can wreak havoc on your garden, mount assaults on your lawn, and leave itchy bites all over you and your pets. The problem is that many of the active ingredients found in conventional pesticides like Cutter Backyard Bug Control and Ortho Home Defense are toxic.
If overexposed, your dog can become poisoned. But even when you use high-powered pesticides properly, trace amounts can build up inside your dog (and you). Eventually, those chemicals can cause serious medical problems, including cancer and respiratory failure.
Using pet-safe pesticides is the best way to protect you, your dog, and ultimately the environment. We compiled a list of some of the most low-risk pesticides on the market. We also chose a few top picks that are classified by the EPA as ‘minimum risk pesticides’ — the safest types of products available.
Think your dog has bug bites? Read our guide to identifying common bug bites and soothing your pup’s red, itchy skin.
The 12 Best Pet-Safe Pesticides
|Natural Chemistry Natural Botanical Yard & Kennel Spray™||Yard, home, & mosquitoes|
|Summit® Mosquito Dunks||Mosquitoes|
|EcoSmart® Home Pest Control||Your home|
|Eco Defense Home Pest Control Spray||Your home|
|NatureShield® Insect & Pest Repellent||Gardening|
|Bonide® Hot Pepper Wax Ready-to-Use||Gardening|
|True Stop™ Fire Ant Killer||Ants|
|TomCat® Fire Ant Killer Granules||Ants|
|Spectracide® Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate||Lawn care & weed control|
|Agralawn Crabgrass Control||Lawn care & weed control|
|Ortho® GroundClear® Vegetation Killer||Lawn care & weed control|
|Finale® Weed and Grass Killer Concentrate||Lawn care & weed control|
Note: All 12 of these pesticides received the lowest possible toxicity rating based on the Toxic-Free Future’s (formerly the Washington Toxics Coalition) evaluation criteria of lawn and garden chemicals.
Our Top Picks
We’re proudly eco-conscious here at Natural Dog Company, so both of our top picks meet the EPA’s conditions for ‘minimum risk pesticides,’ which are even safer than low-risk pesticides. They must comply with six conditions, the most important being the EPA’s list of permitted active ingredients. (Most of the ingredients are “commonly consumed food commodities, animal feed items, and edible fats and oils.”) Ultimately, these are the two safest products you could choose.
Natural Chemistry Natural Botanical Yard & Kennel Spray™
? Our top pick for yard & mosquitoes
Active Ingredients: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (4.28%), Cinnamon Oil (1.78%), Cedar Oil (0.71%), Clove Oil (0.71%)
Natural Yard & Kennel Spray™ is our favorite mosquito and insect killer. The main active ingredient is sodium lauryl sulfate, which is one of the least toxic chemicals across the board. It doesn’t harm to plants or flowers. It has a low soil mobility. It doesn’t harm aquatic life. Plus, it has a low environmental persistence (it doesn’t stick around very long).
NatureShield® Insect & Pest Repellent
? Our top pick for gardening
Active Ingredients: Garlic Oil (0.75%), Cinnamon Oil, Castor Oil (0.63%), Cedar Oil (0.25%)
NatureShield® is one of the few all-natural and completely oil-based pesticides — that’s why it’s our favorite pick for the garden. It kills mosquitoes, ants, bees, gnats, snails, slugs and other pests that could damage your plants without covering your produce in toxic chemicals.
Understanding the Risks of Conventional Pesticides
High-powered pesticides work way better than organic alternatives, but not without risks.
Lawn pesticides have been linked to cancer, nervous system disruption, and other serious problems in cats and dogs. In 2004, researchers at Purdue University studied Scottish terriers that were frequently exposed to herbicides. They learned that those terriers were four to seven times as likely to develop bladder cancer than Scottish terriers without exposure.
There are plenty of similar studies in humans. For a reality check, take a look at how many of the pesticides found in the PAN International List of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (many of which are commonly found in products at your local home improvement store) are flagged as potential carcinogens and mutagens.
We’re still learning about the impact of pesticides on our environment as well. A study in early 2019 determined that U.S. agriculture is 48 times more toxic to bees and other insects than it was before the 1990s. That’s a massive increase.
It’s never too late to start using eco-friendly pesticides and help protect the environment.
Dogs and Pesticides
When your dog plays in a treated area or yard, the toxic chemicals from pesticides get all over your dog’s feet, legs, and back. If your pup eats grass or licks its paws (which is inevitable), those chemicals make their way straight into the gut.
Pesticide poisoning is a serious problem, but it usually only happens if your pet gets into a container of pesticide. Long-term contamination through small exposures is much more likely and takes years to build up in our pets’ bodies (and our own). The best way to prevent either of these situations is to use minimum risk pesticides and keep them locked away.
‘Natural’ Isn’t Always Safer
Labels can be misleading. For example, permethrin is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring insecticide. It’s not uncommon to find permethrin in products labeled as ‘organic’ or ‘all-natural.’ However, permethrin is classified by the EPA as a substance that’s “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” if ingested. That’s why it’s best to stick with minimum risk pesticides.
How long after spraying pesticides is it safe for pets?
The labels on most products advise that you and your pets should stay away from sprayed lawns or surfaces for six to 24 hours. But that’s probably not enough time — especially if it hasn’t rained.
Pesticides have been proven to stay on grass for over 48 hours. In 2013, researchers studied the urine of dogs after they romped around in a treated yard. The yard had been treated over 48 hours prior, but chemicals still turned up in the dogs’ urine and on grass particles. The moral of the story is that if your dog walks through treated areas, or eats some of the grass, he or she is likely ingesting those chemicals and tracking them into your house.
The safest way to avoid pesticide exposure is the keep off of treated areas for at least three days. For the first few days after treatment, wipe down your dog’s coat and paws before letting him or her into the house. It doesn’t hurt to take off your shoes at the front door either.
Dealing with pesky bugs and mosquitoes? Read our guide to identifying common bug bites and soothing your pup’s red, itchy skin.