How Pesticides Can Affect Pets and Pollinators

We know that exposure to synthetic pesticides can be bad for humans. But how do toxic persistent pesticides affect our beloved pets and pollinators?

Pesticides and Your Pets

By simply running around at the local park or chasing squirrels in your neighbors’ sprayed gardens, your animals can be exposed to weed-killing products. As dogs and cats sniff their way through the world, they can easily absorb pesticides. Their innate behaviors—chewing grass or licking fur—also leave them quite susceptible. Animal pesticide research shows that this exposure can be injurious to these pets we adore.

  • Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine documents that pesticides are a main source for toxicity in pets, with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, trouble walking, drooling, nausea, and/or tremors.
  • Dogs exposed to commonly used lawn chemicals like 2, 4-D leave residue in urine samples up to 48 hours after exposure, with longer times shown under specific lawn conditions such as dry grass.
  • Dogs have a 70% higher risk of canine lymphoma cancer after herbicide-treated lawn exposure than dogs not exposed.

If you’re worried that your pet has been exposed to toxic pesticides, talk to your vet. For a fee, you can also call the Pet Poison Helpline.

The Birds and The Bees

The same pesticides making our pets deathly ill are also polluting our urban streams and groundwater, endangering fish and other living organisms. Of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides outlined in this Beyond Pesticides Factsheet, all 30 are toxic to fish and aquatic organisms, 29 are toxic to bees, and 22 are toxic to birds.

Pesticides are taking a heavy toll on wildlife both in agricultural and urban areas. Take birds, for instance. An American Bird Conservancy study indicates that 672 million birds are exposed to pesticides annually from agricultural use, 10% of which will die from the exposure. In fact, a single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoid insecticide can kill a songbird.

These same insecticides are invading the habitats of the bee population in the U.S. and well beyond. Published in 2017, scientists gathering local honey samples from around the world discovered that the lion’s share contained neonicotinoids. Alarm bells went off at the idea of bees eating insecticide-laced pollen; some scientists worried that bees would become impaired and “suffer from learning and memory problems that hamstring their ability to gather food and sometimes threaten the health of the whole hive.”

Given that bees are responsible for pollinating the world’s fresh food supply, their potential impairment becomes a really important issue.

What You Can Do About It

So, here’s some good news. We can all do something to change things up in this very dark picture. Simply put, we need to get rid of toxic persistent pesticides in our environment. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Work to stop toxic pesticide use in the parks, athletic fields, playgrounds, and green spaces where we live.
  • Become organic gardeners in our own backyards.
  • Talk to our neighbors about becoming organic gardeners!
  • Share with other pet owners the risks of pesticide exposure to all of our animals. This is another good reason to keep your cat indoors.
  • Plant a garden that will attract bees and be a safe space for them. Check out the useful tips at

Yes, pesticides affect pets and pollinators—not just people. Thankfully, we can take steps to improve our homes and communities by transitioning to organic practices.