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Pond scum

Duck and the pond scumKokoulina/Shutterstock

If that water feature in your backyard—pond, birdbath, etc.—develops algae on the surface, you’re looking at potentially harmful toxins, Langrall warns. “A quick drink by your dog could result in vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy and lead to more serious medical troubles over time.” Getting rid of the algae is tricky: Even when it’s dead, it can still release toxins into the surrounding water. Consider a “barrier method”—keep your kids and pets away from the pond with these landscaping and hardscaping tricks.

Toxic plants

Blooming pink rhododendron on the gardenRoman Khomlyak/Shutterstock

Gardens provide beauty and a relaxing outlet, but many beautiful plants are toxic to humans and pets, gardening expert Susan Brandt of Blooming Secrets tells Reader’s Digest. The following popular plants can cause serious problems in humans and pets:

  • Azaleas and rhododendrons: All parts of these are toxic.
  • Daffodils: The entire daffodil is poisonous, but especially the bulb.
  • Foxglove: Not only is the entire plant toxic, but if you put the flower in a vase, the water in the vase would be poisonous, too.
  • Lily of the valley: All parts of the plant and berries are highly poisonous.
  • Chrysanthemums: These are one of the most commonly eaten toxic plants. While ingesting chrysanthemums is not fatal to a pet, it can still cause serious problems for the animal.
  • Tomatoes: Although we think edible plants will not cause any problems, they can be toxic to pets. The ripened fruit is fine; it’s the green part of the plant that is toxic and can cause severe poisoning.

Langrall advises that before planting anything in your garden, you consult the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants. If you’re looking for pet-safe solutions, some of Brandt’s favorites are black-eyed Susans, marigolds, pansies, petunias, and zinnias. Watch out for these plants that are toxic to the touch.

Castor bean

Castor oil seeds-ricinus communisAmawasri Pakdara/Shutterstock

Ricinus communis is prized for its bold, exotic foliage and colorful seed pods. Unfortunately, all parts of the castor bean plant are extremely toxic, points out Steve Bender, author of The Grumpy Gardener and senior garden editor for Southern Living magazine. The only exception is the oil obtained by pressing the seeds, which has medicinal uses. The seed hulls, however, contain ricin, a toxin more powerful than cyanide.

Sago palm

Good looking sago palm trees growing in the backyardCristi Kerekes/Shutterstock

Beware the seed of the sago palm, Bender warns. “Prized for its feathery fronds, this shrub has separate sexes”—and the female is lethal. “The male plant is no threat, but the females produce a ball-shaped structure that develops egg-shaped red or orange seeds.” A single seed can kill your pet, he  adds. Now check out 9 precautions to keep your dog safe on Halloween.

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