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The best pet-friendly pesticides for your lawn and home

Updated January 27, 2023

We evaluated products against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Toxic-Free Future's guidelines to find the safest pesticides on the planet.

When it comes to selecting pet-safe pesticides for your yard, you can’t be too careful. To help, we’ve built a list of low-risk treatments that are safer options for you and your pets! We started our search at the National Pesticide Information Center and narrowed our list to products identified as low-risk by the Washington Toxics Coalition (now Toxic-Free Future) and Our Water Our World.

Then, we focused on the absolute safest pest-control products possible. We evaluated those low-risk products against the EPA’s conditions for Minimum Risk Pesticides to find the products with the least toxic active ingredients.

At a glance: The best pet-safe bug sprays and weed killers

Why using pet-safe pest control matters

In a world with genetically-modified organisms and big agriculture, it’s hard to avoid exposure to harmful pesticides. These chemicals are everywhere, and their residue is hard to get rid of. Replacing harmful pesticides with low-risk ones — or natural alternatives — may reduce your exposure.

Certain lawn chemicals linger on grass, plants, and outdoor surfaces for up to 48 hours after application. What’s even scarier is that they usually make it all over the inside of your house, too. Ever sprayed weed killer in your yard? Those chemicals are likely all over your kitchen floor. That’s because chemicals hitch a ride into your house on human and pet feet. If your dog eats the grass or licks themselves, those chemicals collect in the gut, which is even worse.

The good news is that it usually takes years of exposure before chemical residue builds up enough to cause problems for you or your pet’s health. The bad news is that these chemicals aren’t going anywhere. Case in point: In 2019, the EPA refused to ban a pesticide linked to neurological damage in children because of its importance to U.S. agriculture.

The impact of pesticides on pets and people

Here are just a few important findings to consider. It’s not a pretty picture.

  • Heart disease. Long-term exposure to pyrethroid-based repellents and shampoos may increase heart disease in adults.
  • Stronger pesticides. Today’s pesticides are 48 times more toxic to bees and insects than they were before 1990.
  • Lymphoma.  Pets are at risk of lymphoma due to exposure to glyphosate residue in commercial pet food. The use of professionally applied lawn care pesticides raised the risk of lymphomas in dogs by 70%, according to an older study.  Home lawn pesticides have also been linked to cancer, nervous system issues, and other conditions in cats and dogs.
  • Bladder cancer. Scottish terriers exposed to herbicides were four to seven times as likely to develop bladder cancer.

Interestingly, many of the studies we read did not find the same correlation between flea products and adverse effects for pets though “old-school” flea medications may be harmful. Our veterinarians generally discourage the use of flea shampoos and some flea powders and recommend medication instead for fleas and ticks.

‘All-natural’ products aren’t created equal

It’s not enough that toxic chemicals are everywhere. But it’s even harder to know what’s safe and what’s not among products labeled all natural. Product labels and marketing can be pretty misleading, if not downright deceptive.

A great example of this is the presence of permethrin in sprays labeled all-natural and organic. First, permethrin is a synthetic version of a naturally-occurring pesticide. All-natural? Meh. Secondly, the EPA classified it as likely to be carcinogenic to humans if ingested.

Use high-powered pesticides only as a last resort 

Look, we get it. Sometimes the pest problem is so bad that it takes professional-grade treatment. For families that live in warm or human climates, the options come down to staying indoors most of the year or treating their yards for pests like mosquitoes.

The best thing pet owners can do to protect themselves, their pets, and their family is to use minimum-risk pesticides as much as possible. Some pest-control measures like traps for rodents are typically covered by an enclosed box so as not to harm pets or children.

Alternatives to pesticides

You could also try swapping pesticides for these alternative, pet-friendly pest control ideas:

  • Diatomaceous earth. Found at many garden centers, it repels crawling insects.
  • Neem oil. Easily available, it disrupts the life cycle of insects at any stage.
  • Essential oils. Peppermint-thyme-oil repellent repels flies, fleas, mosquitoes, and more.
  • Homemade insecticidal soaps. Sprayed directly on affected foliage, it keeps away common garden pests.

Frequently asked questions

How long should I wait after spraying before I let my pet outside?

Most product labels advise that you and your pets should keep off sprayed lawns or surfaces for six to 24 hours. Studies, on the other hand, say that chemical residue can be found on surfaces up to 48 hours after application — even if it rains.

What happens if a dog smells pesticides?

Pesticides and insecticides used indoors and outdoors are basic irritants for pets and people. For dogs, exposure might include symptoms like diarrhea, drooling, vomiting, or nausea.

What happens if my cat licks pesticides?

While this depends on the chemicals used in the product, certain insecticides that contain organophosphates, carbamates, pyrethrins, and pyrethroids are toxic to cats. In addition to the typical signs of exposure, cats may also experience muscle tremors and seizures. Contact the Poison Pet Helpline if you suspect pesticide poisoning.

How long does it take for pesticides to affect a dog?

With dogs, signs of exposure to pesticides depend on the chemical used, the amount of exposure, and the individual dogs. Symptoms can start within a few hours or up to a few days.