Dog Friendly Weed Killer Options Available In Australia
No matter if it’s a garden, a lawn, or just your backyard, weeds tend to pop up in any outdoor area at some point. Weed killers offer an easy solution for getting rid of unwanted plant growth, but are they safe for your dogs? Well, not all of them.
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know in order to find a dog-friendly weed killer.
Is My Weed Killer Safe For Dogs?
The relationship between canine health and various gardening products (including pesticides and herbicides) we use is anything but clear. While many products are technically safe, this simply means it hasn’t been proven they are harmful to dogs. Some chemicals commonly used in commercial weed killers can cause serious reactions in dogs such as violent seizures.
Others have no visible effect, but it has been shown that chemicals applied to lawns where dogs hang out end up in their urine (1). How can we be sure that those tiny amounts that don’t cause any visible symptoms aren’t actually harming our pets in the long run? That’s the thing, we can’t.
In Australia, gardening products are regulated by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. On their website, you can find and read about various ingredients used in gardening products. However, pet safety and toxicity are not really addressed there.
So what should a conscientious pet parent do? The safest way, for your dog, for you, and the environment is to simply stay away from products that contain ingredients you can’t identify or don’t know anything about. And if you do use synthetic weed killers, make sure to follow basic safety precautions to protect your dog. We’ll get to those in the final part of this guide, but first, let’s look at some of the most common ingredients in weed killers and their safety for dogs.
Common Weed Killer Ingredients
Not sure whether the weed killer you want to get is safe for your pet? Here is a list of some of the most common weed killer ingredients:
Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Roundup, probably the most famous weed killer ever. It’s also one of the most effective (although there is some evidence that weeds have been developing resistance to it), but at what cost?
Truth be told, if you start researching glyphosate and Roundup you’ll run into many controversies and contradictory information. Many studies have concluded that glyphosate does not have a harmful effect on humans and other mammals (this means dogs too), except in very large doses. Others have claimed that it’s very toxic. Yet others have noticed that it might not be glyphosate that is the most toxic in formulations like Roundup, but other ingredients that are mixed with it. As a result, more and more countries have been banning the use of glyphosate.
So is spraying Roundup on your lawn bad for your dog? There is no conclusive evidence that it’s bad, but we’d advise not to test it on your pet.
Verdict: Not recommended for use around dogs
2.4-D is one of the most commonly used pesticides in commercial agriculture worldwide. Since it has been around since the 1940s, it has no trademark which means you can find it under different names, making it a bit harder to identify whether a weed killer contains 2,4-D or not.
Despite its widespread use, there are a number of health risks (for humans) associated with the use of this pesticide, especially if one comes in contact with the liquid or fumes containing it. When it comes to dogs, it is known that large doses of 2,4-D can be lethal (2).
Another problem with home use of 2.4-D is the fact that it can stay on the surface of plants for up to 3 days. During this time, dogs sniffing around come in contact with it and ingest small amounts of the chemical (3). So, if you must use products containing 2.4-D, you must wait at least 3 days before letting your dog near the treated area.
Verdict: Not recommended for use around dogs
Sulfamic acid has been known as a potent weed killer for decades. As far back as in the 1940s studies were done where dogs were fed 1 gram daily of sulfamic acid or its derivate, ammonium sulfamate and no adverse effects were noticed (4).
Verdict: Ok, if used as directed.
Acetic acid is basically vinegar. It is a common ingredient in many pet-friendly weed killers. Usually, concentrations are a bit higher than the vinegar you use in the kitchen. Obviously, you don’t want to do anything you wouldn’t do to yourself - such as spray the vinegar solution directly onto your dog. However, in general, acetic acid is not toxic for canines.
Sodium chloride is also called salt. Yes, it’s ordinary salt, the one you might use in the kitchen. In high concentrations, it can dry out plants, which is why it is often used in pet-friendly weed killers. Not harmful for dogs.
Some innovative eco-friendly solutions for dealing with weeds contain essential oils. Most essential oils are not toxic for dogs, but some can be. Therefore, you should be careful before using such products around your dog.
In principle, using essential oils in your garden is fine, just keep the dog away while you apply the product.
Verdict: Use with caution
Safety Precautions When Using Weed Killers
We all know that canines love to sniff around, and sometimes even eat grass. Therefore, when applying weed killers it’s important to observe some precautions.
First of all, always follow the manufacturer's instructions. Make sure to get the dosage right and to respect any directions printed on the label. Using higher concentrations than recommended can do more harm than good.
Second, it’s probably a good idea not to use herbicide sprays in windy conditions. Especially if your dog is around, you don’t want the weed-killing particle to fly into the areas you didn’t intend to treat.
Finally, it’s probably best to keep your dog away while you are applying a weed killer. Depending on what kind of product you are using, you might want to keep your canine companion away from the area for 1 to 3 days.
“Pesticide use is different if it’s allowed to stay on foliage, This is only an issue with some weed control products that have to dry on the leaves. Most other lawn pesticides are watered in like fertilizer and once watered in will not pose a risk to pets. If a product must dry on the leaf, avoid the area with pets until it has dried.” - Dr Frank Rossi for PetMD
Usually, this information will be provided on the label, so just make sure to follow it.
Best Pet-Friendly Weed Killer Australia 2021
Effective weed killers that are pet-friendly and safe for the environment are not easy to find. However, we did manage to find some great options that are both safe and easy to use.
What sets this product apart from the rest?
The Richgro Beat-A-Weed Natural Weedkiller comes in a spray bottle all ready to use - just like some better known commercial weed killers. What makes it different is the fact that it contains no harmful or questionable chemicals.
The active ingredients in this weed killer are acetic acid (in other words vinegar) and sodium chloride (also known as salt). The result is a formula that won’t cause any harm to dogs, humans, or create poisonous residue in your soil.
So how exactly does the Richgro weed killer work? The combination of salt and vinegar draws the moisture out of the plant and causes it to dry very quickly. All you need to do to apply this weed killer is spray the whole surface of the plant. Depending on the species of weed in question, you might notice the plant turning brown already within a couple of hours.
Just like most non-toxic weed killers, this one does not do miracles. But it does work, with some persistence. Since it works by dehydrating plants, it is best to use it on a warm, sunny day. You can use this spray anywhere, even in your vegetable garden, but one should keep in mind that it is a non-selective weed killer, meaning it will potentially kill any plant it comes in contact with. Therefore, precision is required. For stubborn weeds, multiple applications are needed.
The Homesafe Weed Terminator by Contact Organics is an Australian product specifically designed for home use and advertised as an animal-friendly weed killer.
It works just like most nature-friendly weed killers - by drying out the plant. The active ingredients in this weed killer are acetic acid (vinegar - 90 g/l) and sulfamic acid in a lower concentration of 9 g/l.
Don’t let the name of sulfamic acid scare you. It is a relatively mild acid, and one that is not known as harmful for dogs, especially not in such low concentrations. This, of course, doesn’t mean you should let your canine lick up the weed killer after spraying, but there is no threat to your dog if you use the weed killer as directed.
To apply this weed killer, you need to spray down the plant generously. You should notice the plant wilting within a couple of hours. The spray should work on all sorts of weeds, but be careful where you spray it as it could also dry out plants you do like.
Bioweed is another Australian company focused on providing natural and sustainable gardening products. Their Bioweed Organic Weedkiller is advertised as safe for pets, but some precautions should be taken nevertheless.
Namely, the organic ingredient in this weed killer is pine oil. While it is completely natural, too much pine oil can be irritating to humans too if it gets to the wrong places (such as skin or airways). Dogs are even more sensitive than humans in that regard, so it’s a good idea to keep your dog away while spraying this product on your lawn or garden. That being said, pine oil will almost completely disappear from the surface of the plants and soil within 72 hours. And, since pine oil is not toxic to dogs in small quantities, waiting just one day before you let canines into the treated area should ensure the safety of your pup.
Other than that, this seems to be among the most effective weed killers that don’t contain toxic chemicals. Although natural, pine oil is strong and has the potential to kill most common weeds as well as their seeds. At the same time, it does not poison the soil or the plants you actually want to keep.
Other Pet-Safe Strategies for Dealing With Weeds
While there is an ongoing discussion on how much certain chemicals, as well as natural products, can harm dogs, humans, and the environment, it is still possible to be 100% sure that you are not introducing poison into your garden or lawn. But how? Simply don’t use any weed killer products. Dealing with weeds without the help of weed killers is possible, it just takes more energy and time. Here is how to do it:
1. Removing the Weeds Mechanically
And by mechanically, we mostly mean by hand. Hand pulling the weeds is the way it was done for ages. While the glyphosate craze had some of us believe that we can get rid of weeds by simply spraying a liquid all over our garden, it might be time to run back to traditional methods. On smaller surfaces, getting rid of weeds using your hands, a small shovel, and/or a knife shouldn’t be too difficult. The key to success is being persistent and trying to catch the weeds early before they have a chance to go to seed and multiply.
2. Use Heat to Get Rid of Weeds
Heat is your friend if you want to get rid of weeds easily without using any chemicals. Pouring boiling water onto plants will kill most of them. All you need to do is boil some water and pour it over.
The biggest problem with this method is the lack of precision. It’s difficult to stop boiling water from touching the neighbouring plants too. So, if you are trying to fight weeds that have been poking through your lawn, this will kill the grass too so it’s not the best solution. On the other hand, boiling water is great at dealing with weeds that pop up in cracks on your driveway, pavement, or path.
Another quite popular option is to use a torch to burn the weeds. One option made specifically for this purpose is the Weed Killer Hot Devil® Butane Torch Burner Kit. While these torches need to be handled carefully, they do allow for a certain amount of precision.
3. Use Mulch and/or Landscape Fabric
Another way to get rid of weeds (once and for all) is to simply not give them space to grow. Weeds might not need much in order to thrive, but they certainly do need light. Once you cover the ground with something to disable the light, the weeds will simply stop growing.
This effect can be achieved by covering the ground with landscape fabric (not so pretty) or mulch (looks quite nice). For the best results, you can also use a landscape fabric cover with a thick layer of mulch.
Now, this solution does not work in every case. Obviously, you don’t want to cover your lawn with mulch, since then you would have no lawn. However, the mulch strategy works great for flower beds and various outdoor corners. Mulch is also quite dog-friendly and suitably for dog play areas.
Pet-Safe Weed Killer: The Final Verdict
So what is the best solution for dealing with weeds when you have a dog? The safest way is, of course, not using any chemicals. Dealing with weeds without chemicals is possible, but not everyone has the time or the energy for that.
In that case, both the Richgro Beat-A-Weed Natural Weedkiller and the Homesafe Weed Terminator offer a non-toxic spray-on solution.
As we mentioned in this guide, the evidence regarding the toxicity of glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup) is mixed. However, if you want to eliminate any risk of harm to your dog, you should definitely stay away from Roundup. At the very least, keep the dog away from the treated area for at least 24 hours.
Yes, dogs can die from an overdose from various pesticides. This, however, is highly uncommon, especially if the pesticides are used in recommended doses. What is more common is pesticide poisoning and/or allergic reactions. The symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, sudden disoriented behaviour, shaking, and lethargy. If you notice any of those, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Most weed killers that contain synthetic chemicals are not entirely safe for dogs. When looking for dog-safe weed killers, look for ingredients you can recognize. There are many formulas based on a mix of vinegar and salt that seem to work reasonably well and are completely safe for dogs.
- Knapp DW, Peer WA, Conteh A, Diggs AR, Cooper BR, Glickman NW, Bonney PL, Stewart JC, Glickman LT, Murphy AS. Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs following home lawn chemical application. Sci Total Environ. 2013 Jul 1;456-457:34-41. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.03.019. Epub 2013 Apr 10. PMID: 23584031.
- 2,4-D. CDC. Retrieved April 25, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/idlh/94757.html
- Brookshire, B. September 14, 2015. “Weed killers may go from plant to pooch”. Science News for Students. Retrieved April 25, 2021. https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/weed-killers-may-go-plant-pooch
- Clapp, Leallyn B. "Sulfamic acid and its uses." Journal of Chemical Education 20.4 (1943): 189.
- Burke, A. April 3, 2018. “Are Essential Oils Safe for Dogs?”. AKC. Retrieved April 25, 2021. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/are-essential-oils-safe-for-dogs/
- PetMD Editorial. April 29, 2016. “The Dangers of Lawn Chemicals: Is Your Perfect Lawn Killing Your Pet?”. PetMD. Retrieved April 25, 2021. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/dangers-lawn-chemicals-your-perfect-lawn-killing-your-pet