Image of dog walking on sidewalk

What dangers to your dog are lurking on the sidewalk?

Going for a walk is a simple pleasure, and one many of us dog parents engage in on a daily basis. You’d like to think all you have to worry about is keeping your eyes open for cars backing out of driveways, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Sidewalk dangers can be avoided, but the first step is being aware.

Lawn Chemicals

88 million American households used lawn and garden pesticides. In 2019, TruGreen, a leader in lawn chemicals, reported 1.41 billion in revenue. Lawn chemicals are big business.  Americans love having pretty green lawns free of weeds and dandelions.  But that love of lush perfection comes at a big cost. 

Of the 30 most used lawn chemicals, over half are probable or possible carcinogens. Many have been linked to birth defects and almost all have been shown to cause liver or kidney damage. 

Those chemicals don’t just stay on your lawn either.  They are often tracked into your house on shoes or paws and residue can drift through the air and lurk in dust and in the carpet.

Two-thirds of the lawn chemicals commonly used are toxic to birds.  And nearly half are toxic to mammals. All but one, are toxic to bees. And without bees, we don’t have food. 

The vast increase of canine lymphoma over the years has been linked to lawn chemicals. The more lawn treatments a home has, the higher a dog’s chance of developing cancer. 

Lawn chemical companies like to say their products are safe for children and pets once dry but are they? Pesticides remain on the grass even if once it dries. It can be absorbed through the skin, paws, or inhaled. Try to avoid chemically treated areas for at least a week after you know a product has been applied.

The best time to convert your lawn to organic is in the Fall.  Here are some tips from Beyond Pesticides to help you get started. 

Driveway sealant

Keeping your eyes open when you go walking is so important. You might not have ever suspected it, but some households actually apply polymer or polyurethane sealants to cracks in their driveways and sidewalks. If you don’t see that it’s recently been applied and your dog walks through it and then licks its paws, the product can expand and harden in the stomach resulting in the need for surgery to remove the toxic chemical. Yikes!!  

If you have a neighborhood association, you might want to consider asking people to put cones up to alert others when a product has been applied.

Fresh sealant can be a hazard for your dog.

Deicing Salt

As winter approaches, we shift our concern from lawn chemicals to deicing products. Deicing salt contains sodium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and or carbonyl diamide. The products are deadly to birds and some studies have linked them to the death of deer, moose, and others, eating road salt. 

Walking through deicing salt can dry and burn your pets’ paws and if licked, can cause mouth irritation and stomach distress. If your dog will wear botties, be sure to put them on each time you go out when you suspect salt might be down in the neighborhood. If booties are not an option, wipe your dog’s paws when you get home and give a 3-5-minute paw wash.  

Broken Glass

Chemicals are not the only danger lurking on the sidewalk. Broken glass can wreak havoc on your dog’s paws. If your dog steps in broken glass carefully remove any pieces from the paw with a tweezer, wash with soap and water, apply pressure to stop bleeding, and wrap a bandage. Take your dog to the vet if bleeding does not stop, if there are fragments you could not get out, or if the cuts are severe.

Hot Sidewalks

Avoid walking in the heat of the day. Remember the closer your dog’s center of gravity is to the ground, the faster he will heat up. Be especially careful with seniors and dogs that have underlying health conditions. Read more about the danger of hot pavement in our post.

Bird Droppings

If you live in an area with a lot of birds, be aware that many zoonotic diseases are carried through bird droppings. To be safe, avoid letting your dog walk through a lot of bird poop.


Pesky foxtails are always a hazard to your dog. They are very prevalent from late spring to fall. If one attaches to your dog, a visit to the veterinarian may be needed to safely remove it. The most common areas where foxtails attach are around the paws, the groin, and the face. Never let your dog run through a field full of foxtails.

Other Dogs

Not all dogs are friendly to others. It can also be hard to tell the difference between ones that are friendly and those that want to take your dog’s tail off. Always ask before allowing your dog to approach another. Stay alert and watch for signs that may signal a potential problem. If you notice someone doing their best to avoid you, take the cue and walk on the other side of the street. If you see a dog wearing a yellow bandana, that means that a particular dog likes to have his space. We all know our own dogs the best. Respect differences and keep the peace.

Just like being a parent to a child, being a parent to a dog means paying attention to avoid mishaps. Dangers are everywhere and while it’s impossible to avoid them, you can be aware and do your best to not have them become an issue to your dog’s safety or health. Being present and not looking at your phone screen is a great place to start. Your walk and time spent together will be more enjoyable too!

Popular Articles...