How Pet Safe Are Weed Killers?

How Pet Safe Are Weed Killers?


December 27, 2021

No one should ever have to choose between their pet and lawn!

But if you have a lawn, garden, or landscaping in any part of your home, you already know that weeds are inevitable.

The real problem is that dealing with these unwanted plants can pose a threat to your furry friends so why is that?

Most manufacturers use powerful chemicals to make weed killers highly effective. Unfortunately, the ingredients also make most weed killers highly toxic to pets.

Fortunately, not all weed killers are the same. Keep reading to find out what weed killers to avoid if you have pets.

How Pet Safe Are Weed Killers: Things You Should Know

How Pet Safe Are Weed Killers?

No doubt, synthetic weed killers are quicker and often yield long-lasting results when it comes to eliminating unwanted plants.

In the US, commercial weed killers are regulated. And in some states, you must have a pesticide applicator license to buy and use certain herbicide and pesticide products.

That being said, many weed killer products are not designed with household pets in mind.

In other words, the chemicals may be highly effective for removing unwanted plants but potentially hazardous for your animal friends.

Thankfully, you can control weed without ever applying any synthetic chemicals to your lawn, garden, or any part of your home.

The next section highlights some of the safest methods of weed control for both your pet and you.

Pet-Safe Weed Control Methods

How Pet Safe Are Weed Killers?
  • Hand Weeding: Grab a few weeding tools and manually remove weeds and grasses from areas you would rather not have them grow. This method poses no harm to your pet but can be tiring. For this reason, you might want to reserve it for small areas around your home.
  • Gluten Cornmeal: Gluten cornmeal is best used as a preventative measure. It contains natural chemicals that stop weeds before they germinate. Sprinkle cornmeal in the desired areas to keep weeds from growing without affecting the current plants or your pets.
  • Vinegar: If you don’t mind the smell, vinegar is another pet-safe weed killer you might want to try. Simply spray it on the unwanted plants and it will kill them. You may need to reapply the vinegar a few times if you are dealing with tougher weeds.
  • Weed Burner: Gas-powered or electric weed burners can burn off weed growth without posing any threat to pets. These portable heat guns are best used for removing weeds in patios, driveways, and paving cracks. Keep in mind that this isn’t a practical solution for large areas because weed burners are usually slow to use.
  • Boiling Water: Boiling water is a quick and effective method for killing weeds. Plus, it won’t hurt animals in any way (unless you pour hot water on your pet!). If you have unwanted plants growing on driveways or sidewalks, simply pour boiling water over the leaves to literally cook them. Keep in mind that this method won’t kill the roots of dandelions and other perennial weeds.

Weed Killers to Avoid if You Have Pets

How Pet Safe Are Weed Killers?

Okay, we are not going to mention any specific product here for obvious reasons. Instead, we’ll list some of the ingredients you should steer clear of when choosing pet-safe weed killers.

#1 Paraquat

To paraquat’s credit, it is one of the most highly effective ingredients in weed killers. Unfortunately, it is also among the most highly toxic weed killer components.

It can make it difficult for humans and pets to breathe when inhaled. That’s because it accumulates in the lungs and causes scarring.

Drooling, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, and elevated heart rate are some of the common symptoms of paraquat poisoning in pets.

Owning to its highly poisonous nature, paraquat is usually only available to licensed operators.

#2 Glyphosate

Glyphosate is common in herbicides used to kill annual broadleaf weeds and grasses.

It can be toxic if pets consume plants covered in the chemical or even touch the plants. Plus, the chemical compound has been linked to cancer risk in humans.

Although the scientific community is divided on the potential hazards of glyphosate, it is best to stay safe and avoid products containing the compound.

#3 Organophosphates

Organophosphates can also be listed as phosphate esters, carbamates, or TEPP on some weed killers.

You want completely avoid this ingredient if you own cats or dogs. It is highly toxic and can easily harm your pet’s nervous system.

Vomiting, frequent urination, constricted pupils, and hypersalivation are some of the early signs that your pet is suffering from organophosphates poisoning.

Weakness, muscle tremors, and seizures can occur in severe cases.

Bottom Line: Better Safe than Sorry

Bottom Line: Better Safe than Sorry

Thanks to EPA regulations, the dangers posed by many of these ingredients are often dependent on the quantity ingested by pets.

Also, the presence of some other ingredients or even impurities can alter or reduce the effects of the products.

However, no one wants to take that risk and expose their pets to possible health issues.

For this reason, it is usually best to err on the side of caution and completely avoid the use of products containing these ingredients.

Tips for Pet-Friendly Weed Control

Regardless of the type of weed killer you apply to your lawn, you’ll want to keep the following tips in mind.

Protect Your Pet

Protect Your Pet

The whole aim of using pet-safe weed killers is to protect your four-footed or any other type of pet.

That means you need to take extra steps to minimize the side effects of weed killers, especially if you use synthetic weed sprays.

Put your dog, cat, or any other pet you have in a safe place. This would probably be inside your home or in an outdoor cage.

Make sure your pet won’t be able to wander into the lawn, garden, or yard during the treatment. Only let your pet out when the chemical is completely dry.

This might take anywhere from one to two hours. To be extra safe, you might want to keep your pet away from the treated areas for the entire day.

Remember to remove all toys, food and water bowls, and any other pet items from the area before applying the treatment.

Give Soil Treatments a Shot

Sometimes, it is best to skip weed killers altogether and opt for soil treatments. This is a safer pet-friendly weed control by a long shot!

Without getting into the details of soil treatments, here’s what soil treatment means.

It involves adjusting the soil’s alkalinity to stop weeds from growing in your home’s landscaping. The method can be very useful not only for your lawn but also for other plants in your yard.

Consider Professional Spraying

Consider Professional Spraying

Lastly, you may want to hire a professional sprayer to get the job done.

Many homeowners may dismiss this as unnecessary. This is especially the case for DIYers, and understandably so.

After all, there’s nothing too complicated about spraying a lawn! Or is there? Here’s the thing.

Many garden and lawn sprays contain harsh chemicals with unpleasant side effects on both humans and pets.

Unfortunately, not everyone is familiar with these sprays or their content. Plus, even those who read the ingredient labels may not know every single item on the list.

Chances are, you are likely to misuse what you don’t fully understand, even though it’s unintentional.

Some weed killers need to be diluted and mixed in precise ratios. Any mistake can render it ineffective or too strong.

For this reason, it is usually best to skip all the hassles and guesswork and simply hire a professional to do this for you.

They are trained to know the content of any weed killer and the correct application method.

Plus, they can advise on the best pet-safe weed killers to use and which to avoid, depending on your type of pet.

Consider Organic Weed Killers

If you are asking how pet safe are weed killers, you probably have heard about organic weed control methods.

Generally, natural weed treatments are safer for pets and humans, too! But there’s a catch.

Many of them are not as effective as synthetic chemicals. Plus, some options may not work for weeds that are already out of the ground.

Naturally, most people will prefer a stronger weed killer with quick action.

However, organic weed killers may make sense if you start early enough before the weeds take over your home’s landscaping.


So, how pet safe are weed killers?

The answer depends on the type of weed killer you use and whether it is organic or synthetic.

You might want to sidestep all the potential risks and simply tackle weeds using some of the suggestions in this article.

The only downside is that the methods may not be as effective as using synthetic chemical treatments on your garden or lawn.

By the way, if you prefer to use natural weed killers for your lawn or garden, you might want to check out this guide on Organic Lawn Pest Control.



Rebecca Vargas is an experienced gardener and landscaper and has been rendering professional services for many years. Her services cover both private homes and commercial properties. Leveraging that rich experience, Rebecca Vargas now dedicates a chunk of time to show just about anyone how to maintain their garden and yard, whether at home or workplace. GreenIQ is his way of reaching and teaching millions of homeowners across the globe about proper gardening and lawn care practices.