A Dog Lover's Tale of How Pets and Pesticides/Herbicides Don't Mix!

A Bit of Background
I have had dogs and other pets my whole life. At the time of this writing I have three dogs, two Sonoran Desert Tortoises which live solely in my backyard and survive off the vegetation and three indoor/outdoor cats.

Last month and without any visible explanation my nine month old Chinese Crested Powderpuff dog started going to the bathroom in my home instead of using the doggy door that he'd been trained to use since about the age of six weeks.

Note: the Chinese Crested dog comes in two variants: hairless, with silky hair on the head, tail and feet; and powderpuff, which has a full or partial coat of thin, soft and silky hair. Interestingly, both variants can come from the same litter. Click here to read more about this exotic breed of dog.

I chalked it up to bad puppy behavior, but then when I would pick him up and take him outside, thinking maybe I just needed to re-train his housebreaking, he would promptly run back inside the house, refusing to stay in my backyard.

             Chinese Crested Powderpuff

From Bad to Worse

The problem went from bad to worse when I took my puppy to be groomed and had what little fur he had cut very short, nearly shaved. Chinese Crested Powderpuffs have very thin, silky human-like hair that can get matted if it gets too long.

Days later my puppy started urinating in my bed and pooping in the house. He showed signs of distress in his behavior and demeanor, and he was whining and crying without explanation. Keep in mind, none of my other pets showed any aversion to my backyard.

A Visit to the Vet

I took him to the vet and the doctor could not see any visible signs of illness. There were no bites or cuts to indicate something had attacked him in the yard, no fever, a rectal exam showed no signs of trouble and overall he appeared in very good health. The vet did notice that my puppy showed signs of being in pain (crying and whining) and that his loss of appetite probably meant he had a stomach ache of some sort. I was sent home with a pain killer and meds for his tummy. I gave him the medications and he fell asleep promptly.

My Revelation

Later that same Friday evening I began to think back to about three weeks prior when my puppy's behavior started to change. Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head and I realized that it was precisely three weeks prior that I began spraying my backyard lawn in order to kill crabgrass and weeds.

I have always purchased the natural brand of products for killing insects and weeds; however, I ended up buying a different brand because the store was out of the kind that does not harm people or pets. I noted at the time of purchase that the container said, "Harmful to People and Household Pets" but it also stated that once the product dries it was safe for both people and pets to enter the treated areas.

I of course stopped using that product and by Monday my puppy had made a 100 percent recovery. He has not had an accident in the house since and he's freely using the doggy door.

Lessons Learned

I called my vet to tell him what I believed to be the culprit and it turns out he learned from it too. It never dawned on him to ask me, "Did you begin doing or using anything new or out of the ordinary in your yard around the time the puppy started to avoid the backyard and the lawn?" I certainly don't blame him. I did not realize it at the time either.

The doctor concurred that the product was more than likely getting on my puppy's paws and he was licking it off, and because of the hairless nature of this breed the chemical was probably soaking through his thin skin into his bloodstream since he does not have the shield of thick fur that most other pets have. My other pets (including the tortoises which eat the grass) were not affected.

I will never again purchase any product that can potentially harm my pets, even if the label claims that the product is safe once it's dry. I am forever going to assume that if a chemical is dangerous to pets wet, then it's probably dangerous when dry. As pet owners we have to scrutinize labels and take extra precautions to keep our pets safe from dangerous and potentially harmful products. If a product can kill weeds, grass and bugs, what can it do to a puppy? Looking back it seems like a no-brainer.

No two pets are created equal and a chemical that is safe for a large breed dog or even a dog with a full coat of hair might not be safe for smaller breeds or unique breeds such as the Chinese Crested whose hairless nature leaves it little to no protection against the elements.

Responsible Pet Ownership

I consider myself a very responsible and loving pet owner; however, I made a bad judgment call and was slowly poisoning my puppy. I'll never take that chance again and I am writing this so you will learn from my mistake.

By the way, my puppy is wonderful today and there are no visible side-effects from what he experienced. The greatest thing about dogs is that they love us unconditionally (even when we do dumb things like I did) and my puppy shows no signs of holding a canine grudge. I was angrier at myself than he was. Lesson learned.