When Black Widows Attack, Don't Forget Your Pets

Megan Van Schaick
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Until this summer, I'd been a strictly "no-kill" pest person. I, of the cayenne pepper ant repellent, was determined to keep toxic sprays out of my home -- and away from my dogs.

Then, things changed. One giant black widow charges your face and it’s out the window with the previous philosophy. (In my defense, there was also a brown widow infestation in the garage and back patio, and more black widows under my deck chair. All that and one massive fire ant attack later, and I was done.)

But my concern remained for my dogs -- complicated by the fact that I knew they were exposed to the same spiders and ugh-bugs as the rest of us … and perhaps in more danger because they are low to the ground and constantly poking their noses into dark corners where things like, well, black widows, hang out.

Knowing that animal poisoning cases skyrocket with pest season, I was more than a little worried about spreading ant killer in the dog area or spraying down the patio doors with spider killer. What if one of the dogs lapped up some of the pesticide? What if they rolled in the ant granules?

Many of the pest control products we use in our homes can produce similar results if ingested by our pets: seizures, unconsciousness, respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness, muscle spasms, and even death.

So the most important thing you can do, if you have to use such products, is keep them away from your animals. Hide any rodent poison and slide ant and roach traps under the stove or other places your pet can’t reach. If you are using rodent poisons that could result in dead mice around the house, make sure you beat your dog or cat to the punch and scoop them up and dispose of them immediately.

If you are using granules to kill your fire ants, like I do outside, make sure that your pets are not in the yard when you apply the poison. I rake the granules into the dirt of the ant mound a bit as well so that they aren’t immediately apparent to my dogs. And, when the dogs do go back outside, keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t go near the granules. If you have dogs and cats that live outside permanently, you may need to keep them inside temporarily.

As for outside spider and bug sprays, I don’t shy away from putting these down in areas where my pets hang out -- but I make sure to use a concentrated stream and shoot the spray only in the areas where the bugs are living. Don’t take an Agent Orange approach and just blast your entire yard -- animals will be eating grass, lounging, and even rolling, which increases their risk of ingesting poisons. And again, keep an eye on them, and don’t let them enter the area while poisons are still wet.

There are a few more things to keep in mind when using pesticides around your animals (and kids):

  • Follow all label warnings and precautions. Even some chemical pesticides are safer for animals than others.
  • Avoid over-applying pesticides. In most cases, just a dab’ll do ya!
  • Never dump leftovers in the yard, garbage, or down the drain -- you’d be surprised what dogs and cats can get into.
  • Don’t store pesticides in anything other than the original container -- it’s too easy to mix up and make mistakes.

Have you battled a pest infestation lately? How do you protect your pets?


Image via Silver & Chalk/Megan Van Schaick

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