Copper Overspray and Dogs Who Eat Grass

Continuing the discussion from Dormant Spray and Copper Spray:

This sentence jumped out at me because of a situation I’m currently in. I dropped my dog off at the vet today for routine dental work, and they called me about her liver values. Both of my dogs have a high indicator of some liver enyzme, and while the vet was rattling off potential causes, she mentioned that labs have a tendency toward having trouble metabolizing copper which can cause that high value.

That instantly made me feel like it was potentially my fault, because both of the dogs LOVE to go out the day after I spray and eat the grass under the trees, presumably because I often mix in either fish emulsion or sesame oil. Does anyone know how long copper could stay on grass in those conditions? It made me really worried I need to either quit using copper or find some other way to apply it! The vet had no idea, because she’s not used to dogs having any kind of access to sprayed copper, so she’s used to foods being the primary source of excessive copper. I sprayed in November and April this year, and my dogs recorded high values in May and December. I have NO idea if there’s correlation, or causation!

Wow, yes it appears to be the copper if you ask me! Why are you using copper? For what problem?

I’m guilty, I believe, of overreacting and over spraying :frowning:

Literally everything that can kill a tree is present in our general area, from fireblight to leaf curl, to black spot and canker. I’m just getting started and probably over sprayed heavily but I STILL lost three trees and had to cut back a lot of wood that dried up and turned black or burnt looking. I sprayed periodically up until shuck split on the peaches and the apples stopped blossoming, and then sprayed again when leaves dropped.

Copper does last a long time! You could try sulfur, Captan, and a product that has Chlorothalonil.
That should take care of all that copper does. Canker is a pain and nothing really works well, I read a paper from MSU of canker in cherry and copper didn’t help at all. Also maybe use a petroleum oil and not a food oil, so the dogs stay away.
Thanks for bringing this up, I’m always concerned about my dog too!

I’ll you what, my heart about dropped into my gut when the vet said, “It could be excessive copper, but that’s really unlikely because they wouldn’t have access.”

Um. Maybe they do. Cough.

copper is a very persistent product that’s good or bad, according to what we want to use.

for example, using copper on a fruit, a peach, for example, there will come a day and still eat the peach will see traces of copper and that’s bad.

I however have olive trees and dealing with copper in March, where the tree still has neither flower nor fruit and the copper hold on the leaves until winter, this is good for me, because I just had to try my trees once and I have saved time and money.

as an example, I will tell that I use copper in March and in November or December is still on the sheet, have you care to treat their trees and try to take the product directly without this trickle down, dogs often eat boil for worming .

yourself can check the persistence of copper, copper take a little water and apply it on your hands, then let it dry … and later you try to remove him I assure that you will have to wash their hands 3 or 4 times squeezing tightly

Not wanting to instill any distrust for your vet… but…I’m a veterinary pathologist…
Labradors are NOT a breed noted for having the enzyme deficiencies that result in copper accumulation and copper-induced hepatopathy (think Bedlington Terriers, and to a lesser extent, Doberman Pinschers, West Highland White Terriers).
Additionally, dogs with some forms of liver disease will accumulate copper… and it can become a ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ sort of deal when we start trying to determine if the copper caused the liver disease or the liver disease caused the increased accumulation of copper in the liver…

My concerns would depend upon the particular liver enzyme and how high the elevation was; I’m not saying your vet was trying to ‘guilt’ you into anything, but…
A year or so back, my wife (also a DVM) was caring for her terminally-ill sister and her dogs… one of the dogs was in to her vet for something routine…tooth-cleaning or something like that… bloodwork showed an elevation of… like, 1 point above the top end of the normal range for one of the liver enzymes… veterinarian was pushing for her to purchase a bunch of supplements, etc. … my wife said, “NO.” “But, aren’t you concerned about this elevated liver enzyme and what it means, regarding this dog’s health?”. “NO.” The dog was not ill. An ‘elevation’ of that magnitude was inconsequential. No need for treatment. Now, if it had been 2X, or 20X the normal level, we’d have been talking…but not just one point above. I’m certain that if my SIL had been the one there, she’d have come home with hundreds of dollars worth of drugs, supplements, etc., that the dog DID NOT NEED.

Again, I’m not saying that that’s the case, here, but you don’t have enough info for anyone to make an informed guess as to whether you even have a copper problem in your dog, much less whether copper overspray is an issue.

Thank you for your informed opinion! It was a formality that she mentioned the liver enzyme number, and she wasn’t very concerned about it at all! She merely noted that the elevated value had shown up in the test from this spring as well, and had risen which was worth monitoring. She was really giving a long list of potentially benign causes, and especially noted that she was asymptomatic, and had taken meds for her knees which may also raise those same values. She did recommend a more in depth liver function bile test to see if there was any cause for concern.

I’m the one that had the concern about the copper, because it’s always bothered me the way they eat grass, and so when she rattled off a list of potential things the excess copper thing rang alarm bells. Trying not to be overly crazy is exactly why I posted here, I can’t possibly be the only one who has big dumb grass munching dogs and fruit trees!

I definitely don’t assume that’s the cause, or even have a strong reason to believe they have any liver problems. Just a random high value repeated.

Ryan, I’m an RN, and although not as qualified to speak on this topic as Lucky is, I would try to prevent your dogs from eating the grass under the trees you spray. I have to use copper spray 3 to 5 times during the dormant season to control for fungal stuff out here in S. California (PLC and SH). The state of California has restricted the concentration of copper products we now can use, due to our runoff issues, since we’re always worried here in our state about water runoff into the ocean. Copper is a heavy metal, and it builds up in your body (and your dogs’ bodies). It is possible they are developing elevated copper levels, and the easiest way to find out, is have your dogs’ copper levels tested. Plain and simple. I agree with Lucky, you simply do not have enough information to know if it is the copper, or if your dogs have some other underlying issue cause elevated liver enzyme levels. And, I would get the values as well, and find out what the normal range is. And, are the values above normal, or still WNL, but creeping upwards? All important info to know, and you’ll then know if it is the copper spray you’re using, or not.

A very easy fix for you, so you can continue using copper spray to control for disease pressure is to simply remove the grass from under the trees. Line out some adequate-sized tree wells, line them with cardboard, and put mulch over the cardboard. That will kill the grass but protect the roots and of course, eliminate the grass from under trees that might entice your dogs. Just be sure to use a mulch product that will not be attractive to your dogs.

Patty S.

I updated this because the first part was not a good question. Can’t you just mix some tiger urine or lemon juice or something else in the copper spray and not mix it with stuff they like? Like @Drew51 always says pepper mixed and sprayed on vegetables deters animals from eating vegetables typically so why not use it for the dog?

This topic has me much more aware of the potential dangers of copper. I’m thinking maybe chlorothalonil is safer. Organic formulations are often assumed to be the less dangerous route although I know better, but I figured copper was relatively benign because it is naturally absorbed by fruits and vegetables anyway.

@clarkinks It’s one those things where I discouraged it, but didn’t really consider it a big deal and of course try to limit what’s under the trees and minimize overspray and all that other stuff. The one bit I get lazy about is weed wacking the grass right at the border between the mulched row and the lawn. I have to put up a small fence to keep the dogs from tearing straight through the tree wires on the way to patrol the edges of the lawn, and grass grows up next to fencing, which they occasionally eat. There’s not that much grass, and of course it’s not their main diet! Their exposure seems like it should be fairly minimal. I noted it as a thing that was of vague concern, but kind of assumed keeping them until the next day was enough, for the limited amount of exposure they were getting to what I thought was a relatively benign mix. @alan gave a really disturbing link however!

The value was 150 in the spring and 200 in the fall, but that means almost nothing to me, and I couldn’t tell you which enzyme it was. I’ll definitely find out about a copper test. She’s 97 pounds, if that helps the numbers mean something. They both are at least 10 lbs overweight, but we’re working on it.

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Honestly I would not have thought about it either MisterGuy nor do I think anyone else would have. The orchards of old had the same problems we do

You can always do what I have done when there are flowering plants under or near trees that I’m about to apply insecticide to. Cover the grass with tarps before you spray and fold them up and stash them away between sprays (or hose them off in a fenced area).

I have encountered Vets pushing stuff. When they do, that will be my last visit! I have had the same vet for decades he knows I’m cheap, only offers the cheapest treatment. He knows better! Great guy!
When an old dog has high liver enzymes, that could be just from being around the block. I’m sure I’m throwing enzymes by now too. If your dogs is fairly young that may be a red flag. Even if your dogs are fine, the dogs eating copper is not a good idea, this is not rocket science. So address that problem. Plenty of suggestions posted.


Other than liver biopsy, there’s not - to my knowledge - a good test for copper. Blood plasma levels will be normal until liver levels are sky high (by the same token, in deficiency cases, they’re normal until liver stores are depleted).
Just deal with limiting the exposure, on the outside chance that it might be a problem, and have your vet keep an eye on the enzyme levels.
Some of those liver enzymes go up & down rapidly with minor digestive upsets, etc., and magnitude of elevation is a point of consideration… some, we don’t worry all that much about until they’re at least 2X normal… some may go up 10X, 20X in some disease conditions

I love my dogs too, and wouldn’t want them being sick either.

While I’m not a veterinarian, but I am an MD for humans, Internal Medicine. What Patty had to say resonated with me - if the copper level in the blood is not high, then copper is not the problem. If the copper level is elevated, then it might or might not be the problem. Depends party on how high. It might be expensive, but I would check into having your dog’s copper level checked, to ease your mind. A precaution is what LuckyP said - the blood test may not reflect the liver effect. Nothing is easy.

For humans, minor anomalies of liver enzymes are a never-ending source of stress and additional testing. These results are often found incidentally, in a panel of tests that are done for other reasons. A huge variety of things can change the liver test results, I’m sure in dogs as well as in humans. It depends partly on how high - a little may be nothing, a lot might be more significant. It also depends on other things, since a zillion different things can affect liver enzyme results. They say don’t ever give human pills like tylenol and NSAID pain killers to dogs, which can cause significant liver damage and even death. I assume your dogs don’t drink alcohol - some people do give their dogs beer or wine, and it’s bad for them.

My dogs LOVE the flavor of fish emulsion. The stinkier, the better. So, even if you didn’t have grass, and mulch instead, if you combine fish emulsion with copper, your dogs will probably lick it off the mulch. My dogs literally lick the concrete sidewalk where it drips from my watering can. I don’t know what would happen mixing hot pepper with fish emulsion - they might think that’s some spicy treat!

This might have been said arleady and I missed it, but for future trees, you might benefit from researching the most disease resistant possible. I have been working on finding peach leaf curl resistant peaches for years, and still don’t have a great answer, but a couple of varieties are looking better than most - Charlotte and Q18 / Salish. Similar for apples and pears, I’m trying to mainly use the most disease resistant ones I can find, like the PRI-created apples. There are some lists for diseae resistance or tolerance for pears and Asian pears, but not a lot.

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Well stated, bear_with_me. That ‘elevated’ liver enzyme level is just a snapshot of what was going on on the day that sample was collected. Retest today might well be within the normal range. Or not.

However, ‘they’ would be wrong about not giving tylenol and other NSAIDs to dogs; we use tons of meloxicam for pain relief in veterinary medicine; acetominophen is a very inexpensive and effective pain reliever that can be safely used in most dogs - and probably should be tried in pain management situations - with consultation with one’s veterinarian - before moving on to other drugs such as opioids like Tramadol,
Cats… that’s another story… definitely no acetominophen to cats!!!

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