Home » Pet Health » Toxins and Your Pet » How Pesticides Can Affect Your Pet


Pesticides are chemicals used mainly by the agricultural and landscaping industry to protect plants from pests, weeds, and diseases. Some homeowners also use pesticides to prevent insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, and plant growth regulators are some commonly used pesticides. While these pest control methods are helpful, many of them are associated with health-related effects on humans and animals.

What do pesticides contain?

Each pesticide contains active ingredients that kill or repel the pest. Pesticides are available in the following 3 different forms:

    1. Solids – particulates, pellets, soluble granules, soluble powders, baits, and tablets
    1. Liquid – solutions, concentrates dissolvable in organic solvents, and suspensions of solid pesticide in liquid 
    1. Gaseous – fumigants, which, when applied to the soil, form a gas that controls the pests

Mammals absorb each pesticide form differently, resulting in different health effects. For instance, the skin absorbs liquids more easily than powders and concentrates in organic solvents compared to water-based solutions. Most labels will provide safety measures for the chemical’s use and exposure.

How can pesticides harm pets?

Your pet can absorb pesticides into their bloodstream through the eyes, nose, mouth, or skin. Digging, sniffing, and licking makes their exposure to harmful substances more likely. Dogs absorb pesticide residues by chewing or eating plants treated with pesticides. Cats may be at increased risk of exposure due to their grooming habits. Additionally, cats are obligate carnivores and lack certain enzymes that detoxify chemicals, making them more vulnerable to the effects of pesticides. 

A single incident caused by accidental ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact may lead to drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and rashes in pets. Long-term exposure can have additional detrimental effects, including blood disorders, toxic brain effects, and cancer development. A year-long case study showed that dogs exposed to lawn-care chemicals had a 70% higher risk of developing canine malignant lymphoma (CML) than dogs free from chemical exposure. Studies have also demonstrated that dogs are at higher risk of bladder cancer when exposed to certain pesticides. 

Feline case studies associating pesticide use with cancer development are rare, but evidence suggests that some chemicals have toxic effects on cats. The resulting harm may be because cats cannot metabolize certain chemicals and are likely to have adverse drug reactions. For example, permethrin, an insecticide, can cause toxicity in cats, including clinical symptoms like seizures and tremors.

Some common symptoms of toxicity include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, muscle tremors, hypersalivation, increased heart rate, trouble walking, and breathing problems. If you suspect your pet is unwell because of exposure to pesticides, seek medical attention immediately.

How can you protect your pet? 
You can minimize the chance of your pet having pesticide toxicity in the following ways:

    • Try to avoid using pesticides. 
    • If pesticides are necessary, remove your pet and their belongings (toys, food bowls, etc.) from the treatment area.
    • Keep pesticide containers tightly sealed and stored out of reach of pets.
    • Prevent your pet from visiting chemically treated places.
    • When outside, always keep your pet on a leash until you reach a pesticide-free zone.
    • Bathe your pet after visiting public places.

Although harmful chemicals like pesticides are present inside and outside your home, taking the necessary precautions will help keep your pet healthy and happy for years to come.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s Website Editorial team is comprised of veterinarians, veterinary oncologists, and veterinary technicians, as well as scientific writers and editors who have attained their PhD’s in the life sciences, along with general editors and research assistants. All content found in this section goes through an extensive process with multiple review stages, to ensure this extended resource provides pet families with the most up-to-date information publicly available.

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Last Updated: July 13, 2022

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The following sources were referenced to write the content on this page:

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Court, MH 2013, ‘Feline drug metabolism and disposition: pharmacokinetic evidence for species differences and molecular mechanisms’, Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract, vol. 43, no. 5, pp. 1039-1054.

Dymond, NL & Swift, IM 2008, ‘Permethrin toxicity in cats: a retrospective study of 20 cases’, Aust Vet J, vol. 86, no. 6, pp. 219-223.

Economu, L, Stell, A, O’Neill, DG, Schofield, I, Stevens, K & Brodbelt, D 2021, ‘Incidence and risk factors for feline lymphoma in UK primary-care practice’, J Small Anim Pract, vol. 62, no. 2, pp. 97-106.

Glickman, LT, Raghavan, M, Knapp, DW, Bonney, PL & Dawson, MH 2004, ‘Herbicide exposure and the risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers’, J Am Vet Med Assoc, vol. 224, no. 8, pp. 1290-1297.

Knapp, DW, Peer, WA, Conteh, A, Diggs, AR, Cooper, BR, Glickman, NW, Bonney, PL, Stewart, JC, Glickman, LT & Murphy, AS 2013, ‘Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs following home lawn chemical application’, Sci Total Environ, vol. 456-457, pp. 34-41.

Luethcke, KR, Ekena, J, Chun, R & Trepanier, LA 2019, ‘Glutathione S-transferase theta genotypes and environmental exposures in the risk of canine transitional cell carcinoma’, J Vet Intern Med, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 1414-1422.

Nicolopoulou-Stamati, P, Maipas, S, Kotampasi, C, Stamatis, P & Hens, L 2016, ‘Chemical pesticides and human health: the urgent need for a new concept in agriculture’, Front Public Health, vol. 4, no. 148, pp. 1-8.

Sanborn, M, Kerr, KJ, Sanin, LH, Cole, DC, Bassil, KL & Vakil, C 2007, ‘Non-cancer health effects of pesticides: systematic review and implications for family doctors’, Can Fam Physician, vol. 53, no. 10, pp. 1712-1720.

Takashima-Uebelhoer, BB, Barber, LG, Zagarins, SE, Procter-Gray, E, Gollenberg, AL, Moore, AS & Bertone-Johnson, ER 2012, ‘Household chemical exposures and the risk of canine malignant lymphoma, a model for human non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma’, Environ Res, vol. 112, pp. 171-176.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s medical resource for pet owners is protected by copyright.

For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.