Atrazine and Dogs: Safe Care for Lawn and Your Pet

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If you are like many property owners, you probably use weed killers on your lawn to get rid of noxious weeds like dandelions. And if you are like most parents, you probably do your best to keep your kids away from the grass once it has been treated. This is because you already know these chemicals are known to be dangerous to their health if they happen to ingest them. But, there is evidence that these chemicals, such as atrazine, can also end up in your dog as seen in urine samples.

What is Atrazine?

According to the latest statistics, the only weed killer more commonly in use than atrazine is Roundup. Atrazine is heavily used in the south and midwest, where it is commonly used to control weeds in crops such as sugarcane, sorghum, corn, and more. Not only can atrazine now be found in the grass after treatment, it has also been found in drinking water supplies. Your dog could be exposed to this weed killer by licking his paws after walking on the lawn and by drinking both puddle and tap water.

Signs Your Dog Has Been Exposed to Atrazine

One of the worst things about atrazine exposure is that the symptoms of exposure can be relatively hard to detect. Many of these symptoms are similar to those of numerous other medical conditions, including loss of appetite, rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, and lowered body temperature. In the event your dog should start exhibiting any of these signs or he becomes irritable or experiences any other behavioral issues, take him directly to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.

Since most animals do not show any immediate signs of atrazine exposure, it is what this chemical can do in the long term that is of concern. Along with this, there is a major concern that what atrazine can do to dogs can also do to humans, including your family.

Possible Results of Exposure to Atrazine

Any way you look at it, atrazine exposure is bad news for your family and your pets. Recent government studies have found there is significant evidence to suggest that exposure to this weed killer can cause a number of forms of cancer including ovarian, thyroid, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and hairy cell leukemia. These forms of cancer can result in significant medical bills and quite possibly be fatal if left untreated for an extended period of time.

How to Avoid Atrazine Exposure

There are several steps you can take to help reduce your dog's exposure to atrazine and the possibility that he might succumb to the numerous resulting medical complications.

First, if you must use an atrazine-based weed killer on your lawn, be sure the grass is completely dry before you allow your kids or pets to walk on it. Better yet, find a more natural form of weed control for your lawn that does not involve chemicals that are known to be toxic to both pets and the rest of your family.

Secondly, even while you are doing your best to protect your dog by keeping your dog off your lawn when it's wet or by using a non-toxic weed killer, your neighbors may not be. You can further protect your dog by keeping him away from lawns where these products may be in use.  More dogs are exposed to atrazine in this manner than in their own yards.

If your dog likes to drink from puddles that gather on the lawn, driveway, or anywhere else, he may be exposed to significant levels of atrazine. Be sure to provide plenty of fresh drinking water for your dog to discourage him from drinking from the puddles.

You should have your dog's urine tested for atrazine contamination by your vet on a regular basis, as early detection can lead the vet to perform other tests that may reveal the presence of any of the various forms of cancer.

In Conclusion

 

The use of weed killers containing atrazine has been banned in Europe for over 12 years because of its known carcinogenic properties. However, there is little chance of this happening in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. It is your job to do everything you can to protect your pets and your family from this weed killer. Your vet should be testing for exposure each time you take your dog in for his annual physical, this way he can take the necessary steps to make sure he catches any signs of atrazine poisoning at the earliest stage and ensure your dog makes a full recovery.