If you are an avid gardener, you likely already know that some plants are toxic to your dog. From tomato plants and onions to tulips and daffodils, many plants should be avoided if you are trying to create a dog-friendly garden. However, you may not be familiar with the other risks that are lurking in your backyard garden!
Many lawn products are used by gardeners daily that could put your pup in harm’s way. It includes most pesticide products, herbicides, and many fertilizer options. The best thing that you can do as a responsible pet owner is to familiarize yourself with the risks, what to do if your dog gets into something that he shouldn’t and how to prevent problems.
Today we will look at the risks associated with fertilizer products, including discussing the types of fertilizer bad for dogs and why, what to watch for, and how to keep your dog safe.
Why is Fertilizer Bad for Dogs?
The biggest concern about fertilizer and your dog are harmful ingredients and natural compounds at toxic levels. Commercial fertilizers contain a blend of the nutrients nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, the balance of which is indicated with an NPK rating on the package. In small amounts, these compounds would likely cause nothing more than minor digestive upset. However, large volumes such as the amount included in a bag of fertilizer can be life-threatening.
Many fertilizers also contain other ingredients to enhance the benefits that they offer including pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, and additives such as iron, copper, zinc, sodium, and ammonium.
The smells given off by these commercially available fertilizers are attractive to dogs, especially with organic fertilizers or ‘natural’ fertilizers. It creates a problem if your dog does manage to get into your bags of fertilizer as it causes them to want to eat more, reaching those dangerous levels. It is why it is so important to keep all bags of fertilizer, along with any other lawn product that you may be used, stored safely and securely away from your dog.
Are There Dog-Friendly Fertilizer Options?
Fertilizers labeled as natural, organic, kid-friendly, or pet-friendly are formulated with few or no harsh chemicals. It means that your dog can safely enjoy your lawn faster without concern.
However, pay careful attention to the label directions and the recommended wait time between fertilizer application and allowing your dog to have access to your yard. It will prevent them from coming in contact with any fertilizer residues that may still be on the grass and keep them from dragging any of these residues into your home.
Even homemade fertilizers and fertilizer products carry risks due to the potential toxicity associated with mold and mold spores and the potential for obstructions from the contents.
Signs and Symptoms of Fertilizer Poisoning in Dogs
Two specific issues can arise from your dog getting into lawn fertilizers. The first is the potential for poisoning from ingesting the ingredients included in fertilizer. Many of the most common ingredients are known to cause a gastric upset when ingested in small amounts. For this reason, the biggest problems don’t generally come from eating mouthfuls of grass clippings in a fertilized yard or licking fertilizer from their paws (although both situations can make your dog sick).
There are, however, some chemicals that even in small amounts can be incredibly toxic. The biggest offender is iron. Iron poisoning, also known as iron toxicity, is incredibly dangerous. It can cause serious and even fatal damage to your dog’s organs, including its heart and liver.
Dogs that ingest a larger amount of fertilizer, such as those that locate the stored bag, are at a much higher risk of serious toxicity. Signs that your dog may have eaten fertilizer include:
- Gagging or Vomiting
- Excessive Panting
- Difficulty Breathing
- Abnormal Heart Rate
- Unsteadiness or Shakiness when Walking
- Weakness or Collapse
- Tremors and Seizures
The other major risk that your dog may face from ingesting fertilizer is more specific to organic or natural fertilizers that contain products such as bone meal, blood meal, fish meal, or feather meal. These products may seem safe due to their natural origin; however, your dog’s digestive system is unable to break these products down properly, which can lead to foreign body obstructions.
Obstruction occurs when items that your dog has eaten are unable to pass through the digestive tract, more specifically the intestines, and become stuck or lodged. It prevents anything from passing through the digestive system. Not only does this prevent your dog from eating and digesting their food properly, but it can also cause damage or perforation to the intestines or stomach.
Signs and symptoms of an obstruction include:
- Repeated Vomiting
- Loss of Appetite
- Abdominal Pain
- Pacing or Hiding
In addition to the signs listed above for toxicity and obstructions, you should take note of any time that your dog appears to be acting ‘off’, uncomfortable, or out of character. The smallest change in behavior may be a sign that something isn’t right.
My Dog Ate Fertilizer! Now What?
If you catch your dog getting into a bag of fertilizer or notice any of the signs and symptoms outlined here, you need to act fast. These conditions escalate quickly, and they can turn fatal if left unaddressed for too long. Secure your dog away from the fertilizer to prevent further ingestion, then contact your nearest emergency veterinarian and explain the situation. Provide as much information as you can, including the type of fertilizer your dog ate, how much they ate, and what signs you have noticed.
Many times, when your dog is showing signs of fertilizer poisoning, it will require hospitalization and intense veterinary care. Your veterinarian will be able to fully assess the situation and provide you with recommendations for how to best proceed.
Keep Off the Grass!
Returning to the original question, is fertilizer bad for dogs? While there are options that may be safer for use around your dog, even all-natural fertilizers can lead to discomfort, illness, or other complications. If you are using fertilizer in your yard, the safest choice is to keep your dog off the lawn for 24-72 hours after fertilizing.
If at any time you are concerned about the lawn care products that you are using and the potential risks to your dog, you should contact your veterinarian. Not only will they be able to discuss the dangers associated with different products, but they can also share how to best use your lawn and garden products safely with your dog in mind.