Is It Safe to Walk My Dog Where We Live?


        Michael W. Fox BVet Med, PhD, DSc

Walking our dog Kota at 84 degrees F just 3 weeks after we had a blizzard here in Minnesota, we heard two or three frogs singing in a swampy pond along Bassett Creek trail in Golden Valley MN where we walk. Why so few, and rarely a dragon fly last summer?

That evening, I saw a TV advertisement promoting Bayer’s (formerly Monsanto’s) herbicide Roundup. This is mainly glyphosate, classified as a probable carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, therefore a major human and environmental health hazard yet it is used to kill weeds like the dandelion—a medicinal and most nutritious plant. The very next morning I saw my immediate neighbor, who has two dogs, spraying the dandelions on her lawn. I should take her a copy of the warning about exposing cats and dogs to such herbicides in the Morris Animal Foundation’s new Pet Cancer Prevention Checklist brochure. (

Then, a month later on June 7, 2018, walking the same trail with Kota I pulled out one of her empty poop bags* to harvest the tender tops of some Sting nettles for soup (more nutritious than spinach and with more medical benefits) that grew in a few patches along the bank of Bassett Creek. I was shocked that most were wilted and dying.

I saw a sign indicating they had been sprayed with Dow Agroscience’s herbicide Garlon 3A the previous day by licensed applicator Minnesota Native Landscapes. This herbicide is toxic to aquatic life, is a probable carcinogen and surely causes more harm to the environment and biodiversity than do the Sting nettles. Subsequently, on the morning of June 1318 I met two operatives with Applied Ecological Services readying to spray Aquaneat, which contains 53.8% glyphosate, along the bank of Bassett Creek fifty yards upstream from the area already treated by the other company to “control invasive weeds and stop erosion along the bank.”

These eco-friendly sounding company names belie the risks of the chemicals they profitably put into the environment that June rains in particular will quickly leach into the creek and ultimately our drinking water. There is enough coming from commodity crops like GMO corn and cotton without the addition from urban and suburban agencies responsible for environmental health and integrity of ecosystems and private property owners applying herbicides where they wish.

Glyphosate and other herbicides disrupt the “microbiome” of beneficial bacteria in the gut with multiple adverse health consequences including increased intestinal permeability. This may facilitate the absorption of insecticides, notably Bt toxins (see below) and neonicotinoids linked with the demise of honey bees and other pollinators.

Deformed frogs were first discovered in Minnesota ponds by school children in 1995. Investigators later found these developmental and also reproductive problems were due to herbicides and an insect growth regulator, methoprene.

Municipal authorities use these chemicals in fresh water ponds and other standing surface water habitats to control mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis virus and Zika virus by killing mosquito larvae in the water. But they coincidentally kill other aquatic organisms that normally consume the larvae such as dragon fly nymphs and aquatic beetles. Fewer healthy frogs means fewer tadpoles to consume algae, some of which (cyanobacteria) can produce lethal toxins that often sicken and even kill dogs like Kota if she drank the water. According to Dr. Sharon.P. Lawler** “Sustained, environmentally-safe control of larval mosquitoes is particularly needed for highly productive waters (e.g., catchment basins, water treatment facilities, septic systems), but also for other habitats to maintain control and reduce inspection costs. Common biorational pesticides include the insect juvenile hormone mimic methoprene and pesticides derived from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, Lysinibacillus sphaericus and Saccharopolyspora spinosa (spinosad). Health agencies, the public and environmental groups have especially debated the use of methoprene because some studies have shown toxic effects on non-target organisms.”

Minnesota Metropolitan Mosquito Control*** reports that “The insect growth regulator methoprene and the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis var israelensis or Bti, are the primary larval control materials. These active ingredients are used in the trade-named materials Altosid® and MetaLarvTM (methoprene) and VectoBac® (Bti). Other materials included in the larval control program are B. sphaericus (VectoLex® CG) and Saccharopolyspora spinosa or “spinosad” (NatularTM G30).” Urban, suburban and rural communities across the state are subjected to routine aerial delivery of these pesticides to control mosquitos during the breeding season, now extended with climate change. Silent Spring is becoming Silent World.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is also applied across Minnesota and most other states by Departments of Natural Resource and Forest Management to kill various species of caterpillars, killing non-target species in the process. This onslaught on the insect kingdom is compounded by over 35 million hectares of GMO corn and close to 4 million hectares of GMO cotton genetically engineered to produce various Bt toxins which, along with other pesticides, notably neonicotinoids that circulate through the entire plant now threaten bee and other crop pollinating insects.

The domino-effect of these chemicals means insectivorous birds, bats, reptiles and other creatures starve to death and become extinct. In the absence of those species that helped control “pests” and insect-borne diseases we become evermore dependent on pesticides to which target species quickly evolve resistance. This was the prescient concern of organic farmers who opposed GMO crops that are engineered to produce Bt insect toxins and whose judicious use of Bt bacterial applications is approved under Organic Certification; and who also predicted the evolution of ‘superweeds’ resistant to glyphosate.

Frogs and other amphibians are becoming extinct all around the world yet they and other creatures play a vital role in controlling adult mosquitos. We have the science now to identify and correct many communicable (zoonotic) disease problems, but without the will of an informed public demanding responsible government and corporate behavior with regard to public and environmental health we will surely share the fate of the frogs.

Maximizing natural biodiversity and healthier ecosystems calls for a radical revision of ways and means by public health and environmental authorities when the application of hazardous chemicals to control species categorized as dangerous and invasive have harmful consequences and have the opposite consequences of best intentions. As the most dangerous and invasive of all species some conspiracy theorists contend that such activities are part of a global program to reduce human fertility and population and create profit-driving diseases like cancer and dementia.

But there is no such conspiracy in my professional opinion and experience as a veterinarian, limnologist and entomologist (a former Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, London); only the irony of the karma of not living in accord with the Golden Rule now morally inverted in the miasma of vested interests, deficient science and fear, best intentions notwithstanding.

Our rescued from Alabama country cattle dog Kota, like millions of other dogs, is given regular anti-heartworm medication. But for her own health reasons she is given no other insecticidal and anti-parasitic drugs. These are widely prescribed by veterinarians and sold OTC in drug and pet stores to treat and prevent internal and external parasites from hook worms to fleas and ticks we should rightly fear and seek to prevent, especially in view of the rise of tick and flea-borne diseases now accelerating with climate change. These drugs are even more widely used by the livestock and poultry industries resulting in residues in animals’ excrement, along with antibiotics and other production-enhancing drugs and hormones that contaminate the environment and kill scatophagus, waste-removing insects. This disrupts the nexus of bio-cycles of ecosystem recycling and regeneration. All such excrement from treated animals should be collected for biodegradation in manure containment or non-leaching land-fill facilities. Many different chemicals and pharmaceutical products are in our dogs’ feces and urine, as well as in ours, from prescription drugs to some manufactured pet food ingredients and contaminants that make such waste harmful to the organisms that make for healthful, living soils and inevitably our water quality.

Spraying “selective” herbicides on corporate property and “diluted Roundup” on public ( Scheid Park tennis courts) may well contribute to neurological and other health problems in our species and many others.

**Sharon P. Lawler Environmental safety review of methoprene and bacterially-derived pesticides commonly used for sustained mosquito control. Ecotoxicology and Environmental SafetyVolume 139, May 2017, Pages 335-343 *** Metropolitan Mosquito Control District SAFER HEBICIDE: vinegar: an alternative to glyphosate? - University of Maryland Extension that glyphosate may account for up to 90% of pesticide applications … As a non-selective herbicide, glyphosate will kill most plants it contacts. …. Nonetheless, using acetic acid on weeds with tap roots (dandelions, Canada … Bioganic Safety Brands Weed & Grass Killer - 10% acetic acid, 2% eugenol (clove oil), 2%.


In Minnesota a bill has been passed by State legislature to support allotting $2 million to subsidize 75% of the cost of people converting their lawns to wild, indigenous flowering plants to help save the bees and other pollinators. I am confident that this legislation and funding will be secured. It should be adopted by all states, including the absurd, irrigated lawns in California and the South West. No offence to Tiger Woods and his industry, but golf courses, like lawns, are an abomination when widely and routinely applied chemicals (especially Roundup (glyphosate) ) run off into surface and ground waters which we eventually drink and also comes down in rain water. far away . These should be prohibited and a percentage of every golf course be dedicated wildlife habitat. For details about this Bill, see the Star Tribune ,March 19th 2019 Pollinator-friendly yards could get help from the state of Minnesota ……state…/507373292/

Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs … - Europe PMC › article › med

Exposure to herbicide-treated lawns has been associated with significantly higher bladder cancer risk in dogs. Sci Total Environ . 2013 Jul 1;456-457:34-41. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.03.019. Epub 2013 Apr 10. Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs following home lawn chemical application by Deborah W Knapp et al, PMID: 23584031 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.03.019 Exposure to herbicide-treated lawns has been associated with significantly higher bladder cancer risk in dogs. This work was performed to further characterize lawn chemical exposures in dogs, and to determine environmental factors associated with chemical residence time on grass. In addition to concern for canine health, a strong justification for the work was that dogs may serve as sentinels for potentially harmful environmental exposures in humans. Experimentally, herbicides [2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), 4-chloro-2-methylphenoxypropionic acid (MCPP), dicamba] were applied to grass plots under different conditions (e.g., green, dry brown, wet, and recently mowed grass). Chemicals in dislodgeable residues were measured by LC-MS at 0.17, 1, 24, 48, 72 h post treatment. In a separate study, 2,4-D, MCPP, and dithiopyr concentrations were measured in the urine of dogs and in dislodgeable grass residues in households that applied or did not apply chemicals in the preceding 48 h. Chemicals were measured at 0, 24, and 48 h post application in treated households and at time 0 in untreated control households. Residence times of 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba were significantly prolonged (P<0.05) on dry brown grass compared to green grass. Chemicals were detected in the urine of dogs in 14 of 25 households before lawn treatment, in 19 of 25 households after lawn treatment, and in 4 of 8 untreated households. Chemicals were commonly detected in grass residues from treated lawns, and from untreated lawns suggesting chemical drift from nearby treated areas. Thus dogs could be exposed to chemicals through contact with their own lawn (treated or contaminated through drift) or through contact with other grassy areas if they travel. The length of time to restrict a dog’s access to treated lawns following treatment remains to be defined. Further study is indicated to assess the risks of herbicide exposure in humans and dogs.

BASSET CREEK SPRAYING MAY 2023 I wonder how many municipalities in Minnesota are poisoning their communities once green-life returns, with various herbicides for purposes I find, as a veterinarian and biologist, at best highly questionable. On May 19th 2023 while walking my dog beside Bass Creek in Golden Valley, MN, I saw some flags posted with the warning: “Keep children and pets off until May 19th”. As I bent down to examine the notation as to what had been sprayed, a Monarch butterfly landed a couple of feet way on a young milkweed plant. Both may soon be gone, one from the herbicide and the other from starvation. The flag notation indicated that Vastalan and Aquaneat had been sprayed on the plants beside the creek. Vastlan-Active Ingredient: Triclopyr choline: 2-[(3,5,6-trichloro- 2-pyridinyl)oxy] acetic acid, choline salt..Results of one study suggest that it may be more difficult for dogs to excrete triclopyr compared to other animals. Always take steps to minimize your pets’ exposure when using pesticides. Triclopyr is low to moderate in developmental toxicity and moderate in reproductive toxicity. Extensive details of the risks of this herbicide are available at Aquaneat- Contains 648 grams per litre or 5.4 pounds per U.S. gallon of the active ingredient, glyphosate, in the form of its isopropylamine salt. Many biomedical and ecological scientists have documented the world-wide public and environmental harms of Monsanto/Bayer’s glyphosate, widely marketed as “Roundup.” Multimillion dollar settlements have been reached over exposure by users of Roundup who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is commonly in motehrs’ milk around the world.Camiccia M, Candiotto LZP, Gaboardi SC, Panis C, Kottiwitz LBM. Determination of glyphosate in breast milk of lactating women in a rural area from Paraná state, Brazil. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2022 Jul 25;55:e12194. doi: 10.15901414-431X2022e12194. PMID: 35894382; PMCID: PMC9322831 Glyphosate is highly toxic to many aquatic species and applying this beside basset Creek is an afront to common sense, sound science and public responsibility. It is notably that at the end of the road where I live is the Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology that has its extensive lawns regularly sprayed with Roundup. The widespread use of herbicides, especially by conventional agriculture and agroforestry, is decimating natural biodiversity-plants that sustain pollinators and other beneficial insects and the reptiles, birds and bats who feed on them. These and other petrochemically derived pesticides have been found in rain water and the waters we drink and bathe in, as well as in mother’s milk. Time to clean up shop or ship off! In addition to the health and environmental risks of lawn herbicides we have the need for constant watering which promotes chemical run-off into surface and ground water and then mowing with associated noise pollution and air pollution from gasoline-mowers. Also, frequent application of chemical fertilizers, (not just by agriculture) most noticeable from properties surrounding lakes, leads to eutrophication from fertilizer run-off, resulting in the blooming of aquatic algae. These can rob the life in the water of oxygen and endanger aquatic life. Blue-green algae called cyanobacteria sicken and kill many dogs and other animals every summer, even making humans ill when their water supply is contaminated. Dogs can develop poisoning when they drink from, or even simply swim in, contaminated water sources. If blue-green algae are ingested, it can cause severe neurologic or liver damage. Signs of blue-green algae toxicity include panting, respiratory failure, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma and death.