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How Dangerous Are Weed Killers for Dogs?

Written by: Justin Palmer
Justin Palmer is a Certified Pet Food Nutrition Specialist and co-founder of Inspired by his rescued husky, Splash, he dedicated himself to learning about extending both the length and quality of her life. Splash lived and thrived until 18 years old, and now Justin is on a mission to share what he learned with other dog owners.Read more
| Published on January 2, 2024

Reviewed by: Dr. Theresa Fossum

Reviewed by:

Dr. Theresa Fossum

Meet Dr. Theresa (Terry) W. Fossum, DVM, MS. Ph.D., Diplomate ACVS – a remarkable animal lover whose passion for animal care and innovative solutions has left an indelible mark on the veterinary world. As the CEO of both Phoenix Animal Wellness and Epic Veterinary Specialists, she's ensuring dogs and cats receive the highest level of care and compassion.Read more

Gardening is a therapeutic activity many homeowners relish. Maintaining a perfect lawn or garden often involves warding off unwanted plants or weeds. Weed killers, commonly known as herbicides, are a popular solution to this issue. However, if you’re a dog owner, it’s imperative to understand the potential risks these products might pose to your furry friend.

The Dangers of Weed Killers for Dogs

Dogs, driven by their innate curiosity, are known to munch on grass, dig around in the soil, and play on the lawn. Consequently, they can easily come into contact with any chemicals or herbicides applied to these areas. Ingestion, inhalation, or dermal contact with certain herbicides can cause a range of symptoms in dogs, from mild discomfort to severe poisoning.

Related: Be sure to check out these natural pet safe weed killers

Chemicals of Concern:

  1. Glyphosate: This is the active ingredient in many popular herbicides, including Roundup. While it’s deemed less toxic to dogs than some other herbicides, it’s not without risk. Dogs exposed to glyphosate may experience salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Prolonged exposure, especially in large quantities, can lead to more severe health complications.
  2. 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid): Often found in ‘weed and feed’ products, this chemical kills broadleaf weeds but leaves grasses unharmed. When dogs are exposed to 2,4-D, they may show symptoms like drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or muscle twitching. There have also been concerns about a potential link between 2,4-D exposure and canine malignant lymphoma, although definitive evidence is still under review.
  3. MCPP (Mecoprop): Another ingredient commonly found in herbicides, MCPP, can cause similar symptoms in dogs as 2,4-D when ingested.
  4. Diquat: Used in several herbicide formulations, diquat can lead to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, oral ulcers, and lethargy in dogs.

While the aforementioned chemicals are among the most common in weed killers, there are many different herbicide formulations. Always check the label for active ingredients and their potential hazards.

Safe Alternatives to Traditional Weed Killers

If you’re keen on maintaining a weed-free lawn or garden without compromising the health of your beloved pet, there are several alternatives to consider:

  1. Corn Gluten Meal: This is a natural pre-emergent, which means it prevents weed seeds from germinating. While it won’t kill existing weeds, spreading corn gluten meal in the spring can help reduce the emergence of new ones. Moreover, it’s safe for dogs.
  2. Vinegar: Acetic acid in vinegar can act as an organic herbicide. When sprayed directly onto weeds, the acetic acid draws moisture out of the leaf, causing the weed to die. However, remember that vinegar is non-selective and can harm desired plants if they come into contact.
  3. Boiling Water: A simple yet effective method. Pouring boiling water directly onto weeds can kill them. As with vinegar, be cautious not to pour it on plants you want to keep.
  4. Manual Removal: It’s labor-intensive but effective. Pulling weeds out by hand ensures they’re removed from the root up. Using tools like a weeder can make the task easier.
  5. Mulching: Covering the soil with mulch, like straw, wood chips, or grass clippings, can prevent weed growth. Mulch acts as a barrier, making it harder for weed seeds to reach the soil and germinate.
  6. Natural-based Herbicides: Several commercial products are made using natural ingredients like citric acid, clove oil, or lemongrass oil. They can be effective, especially for younger weeds. Always check labels to ensure they’re pet-friendly.


To ensure your dog’s safety, it’s vital to be conscious of the products you use in and around your home. Traditional weed killers can contain chemicals that are harmful to dogs when ingested, inhaled, or absorbed. By opting for safe alternatives, you can maintain a beautiful garden without risking your dog’s health. Always store herbicides out of reach of pets, and if using them, prevent your dog from accessing the treated area until it’s safe. When in doubt, consult with your veterinarian or an expert in pet toxicology.

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