Discovery.com recently featured an article about the link between dogs' exposure to lawn and garden chemicals and an increased risk of bladder cancer. The paper that the article is based on will appear in Science of the Total Environment next month.
The article reported that herbicides containing the chemicals 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), 4-chloro-2- methylphenoxypropionic acid (MCPP) and/or dicamba could increase pets' chances of developing cancer, specifically bladder cancers. Traces of the chemicals were found in the urine of tested dogs, and unfortunately not only in dogs' whose owners actually applied the chemicals to their yards. Researchers explained that wind can carry herbicides for distances up to 50 feet. Dogs may also come into contact with the chemicals during daily walks. Wherever the exposure takes place, herbicide chemicals can be carried on paws and fur, making it more likely that pet owners will be exposed as well.
This study was conducted on dogs, but it's very likely that other types of pets could both carry and be effected by lawn chemicals. Dog breeds who are already genetically predisposed to developing bladder cancers, breeds such as beagles, Scottish terriers, and wire hair fox terriers, are thought to be in increased risk to the effects of this type of chemical exposure. Dogs most commonly come into contact with the chemicals by licking or ingesting treated plants, licking their paws or fur after exposure, inhalation, and transdermal exposure.
Of course it's impossible to avoid walking our dogs. However, pet owners are encouraged to eliminate or reduce their use of herbicides. If you must use them, it's important to follow the manufacturers directions carefully and do whatever you can to reduce your pets' exposure.