Lawn Chemicals, Cancer, and Dog Boots

Posted on August 6, 2009 by Allie


We have the worst lawn in the neighborhood.  Although, I suppose that depends on what your version of bad is.  Our lawn is full of clovers, dandelions, and plants that are green, but not necessarily grass.  We have a few bald spots.  But when the dogs run outside and roll around in the grass first thing in the morning, it’s safe.  They aren’t coating themselves in chemicals, that they will ingest when they lick themselves, and they aren’t bringing those chemicals into the house on their fur to rub off on furniture and people, because we don’t spray our lawn with herbicides and pesticides and fertilizer.

Unfortunately, everyone else in our neighborhood does.  The lawn chemical company trucks seem to be a permanent fixture in our neighborhood.  Just as soon as the little yellow lawn tags come down at one house, they go up at another.  And no one ever seems to bother sweeping those little yellow, white, and blue pellets off the sidewalk.  So we end up walking through them when we take our walks. 

When we come home, I wash Argo and Stella’s feet.  But I worry that it’s not getting all the chemicals off, or perhaps dissolving them into their skin and making it worse.  I picture chemicals seeping in to the little cracks and crevices in Argo’s worn footpads.  Maybe that’s crazy, but Argo has already had cancer once.

An article at says, “According to published studies, dogs exposed to herbicide-treated lawns and gardens can double their chance of developing canine lymphoma. For some breeds, exposure also increases their risk of bladder cancer by four to seven times.”

Do I walk my dogs, or do I keep them in my own yard to try to keep them safe?  It seems crazy to me that I have to choose.  Is a pristine green yard more important than the health of our pets?  And aren’t pets the canary in the mine?  Is a pristine green yard more important than the health of us?

I’m going to buy Argo and Stella some dog boots, but it would be easier (and less expensive) if my neighbors just stopped using chemicals.  I try really hard not to judge other people’s choices, but I get angry every time we go for a walk.

Maybe our lawn is the best lawn in the neighborhood.  Clovers are pretty.  Dandelions too.


  1. Perhaps you can organize a neighborhood meeting to express your concerns about the pesticides and their effects on our pets. I really don’t think people realize how toxic they are, and I believe education is the best way to address this. You can do it in a non-judgmental way and get to know your neighbors at the same time!

    August 6th, 2009 at 12:51 pm
    Comment by Kim from Milwaukee
  2. I like Kim’s suggestion. A lot of people don’t realize that the things they do in their own yard are harmful to their neighbors as well. I have never seen dog boots before!

    August 6th, 2009 at 1:02 pm
    Comment by courtney
  3. As someone with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) YOUR lawn is the best lawn! Thank you for continuing to spread the word that these things are not good!

    August 6th, 2009 at 1:39 pm
    Comment by SueEllen
  4. We purchased the dog boots for our two large dogs. We did this to protect the hardwood floors in between nail trimmings. We also had no idea our eldest dog was a bit bowlegged and the boots kept flipping upside for her. They are really cute and we laughed for about a half hour watching the dogs learning to walk in them. However, our more adventurous dog lost her boot and sock within the first week and we gave up after week two. They are a pain to take on and off and if you just leave them on they get stinky feet. They do wash up easily in the washing machine, so that’s a plus.

    August 7th, 2009 at 9:52 am
    Comment by Kirsten
  5. I like the clover, dandelions, and other things that pop up in lawns. Sadly, lawn maintenance is about conforming and even outdoing your neighbor.

    Can you write a post about the yucky stuff the store/restaurant owners use to hose down their sidewalks in the city? I try to take Dingo Girl around them, especially when I smell bleach, but is there anything we can do about it?

    August 7th, 2009 at 11:04 pm
    Comment by Dingo
  6. My parents also don’t spray their lawn, and we get all kinds of weird-looking plants there. I have a photograph of purple flowers that nobody (not even my parents) believe came from our lawn. We have decorative strawberries (inedible) growing there, and the last time I checked there was an enormous foxglove plant growing there. Not to mention the frogs, ducks, deer, raccoons, and turkeys that we get from time to time…

    August 9th, 2009 at 2:04 am
    Comment by Jules
  7. Racing dogs, such as Siberian Huskies, often wear boots to protect their paws from ice shards.

    The thing you have to watch out for, especially in summer, is overheating. Dogs sweat through their paws so to cover them with boots can easily give your dog heat stroke.

    August 9th, 2009 at 1:15 pm
    Comment by Howling Hill
  8. Ruffwear (the company link to the dog boots you mentioned) makes really high quality (and nice looking) dog gear! Thatcher has been wearing/using the same Ruffwear collar and leash now for 3 years and they have hardly worn down at all. Goodluck with the boots and let us know how it goes (I get mad about lawn chemicals too -you’re not alone! Just the smell of them makes me sneeze and gag).

    August 13th, 2009 at 9:32 pm
    Comment by Melissa
  9. my “dog friendly” apartment complex acted like I was INSANE, when I voiced my discomfort about their use of hebacide use with no warning to the residents, many whom are dog owners. They delayed providing the printed info which by law should be avaliable upon request. My husband thought I was over-reacting when I insisted upon walking throught the parking lot crossing a busy street before I would allow my dog to urinate. But all of the online info said delay 1 week before allowin a dog to use a treated lawn. Thank you for validating my concerns.

    December 19th, 2009 at 8:54 pm
    Comment by lazerclaire
  10. We moved when our lease was up.

    December 19th, 2009 at 8:55 pm
    Comment by lazerclaire
  11. When a true professional is doing the applications for a lawn there is very little risk of pollutants. IPM Integrated Pest management only spot treats weeds. Lawns are made thicker and healthier by providing balanced nutrients and proper cultural care to encourage thick growth. A thick lawn reduces surface runnoff of toxins that are always present, Keeps soil in place, helps purify water that filters through, 2500 square feet of a healthy lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four, grass sequesters carbon dioxide, builds up organic matter in the soil better than any other plant, and absorbs urban air pollutants. Don’t be so critical of a vibrant lawn. It is the non-professional application to these lawns that pose a threat. Over treatment, using any blend that is on the shelf, and over dosing with pesticides. A true professional encourages turf with just a little help and minimal use of any pesticide and certainly does not use persistent pesticides.

    April 16th, 2010 at 8:17 am
    Comment by Paul
  12. I sooo appreciate your comments. I have been on a mission to find pesticide-free areas to walk my “next” dog, after my sweet beagle Josey died a month ago from cancer at 12 yrs of age. I truly believe that it was from the pesticide/herbicide use in my neighborhood. She LOVED to go on walks and, being a beagle, it was difficult to keep her nose off the ground. I hate the use of lawn chemicals and, although some companies may use them minimally (in an integrated approach) most do not. I fully support the safe zone your lawn creates for your pets.

    September 22nd, 2010 at 12:02 am
    Comment by Pat

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