My Furry Friend Chowed Down on Fertilizer – What to Do Next?

Picture this: you’re out for a leisurely stroll with your dog when it unexpectedly dashes onto someone’s lawn. As you approach, a small sign catches your eye, warning about the presence of fertilizer. Suddenly, worry sets in. What if your beloved pup has ingested some? You’re not alone in this concern. Many pet parents stress about their dogs consuming fertilizer, as it ranks among the top ten reasons for calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

So, what makes fertilizer toxic to our furry friends? Most fertilizers contain ingredients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, displayed on the packaging with numbers like 5-10-10 (representing the percentage of each nutrient). Generally, fertilizers have low toxicity levels, causing mild symptoms limited to gastrointestinal irritation. However, the addition of certain nutrients or additives can increase the potential for toxicity.

Let’s take a closer look at common additive ingredients found in fertilizers and the associated concerns for dogs:

Micronutrients

These include iron, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, boron, manganese, and molybdenum. While typically present in low concentrations, large volumes of ingested iron can lead to initial signs of toxicity such as vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

Animal By-Product Meals

Organic fertilizers often contain animal by-products, which can be enticing to our pets. Large ingestions of bone meal, for example, may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially, an obstruction in the dog’s stomach that might require surgery. Ingestion of such fertilizers can also lead to severe inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis.

Rose Fertilizer (Disulfoton)

Rose fertilizer often contains disulfoton, a highly toxic insecticide. As little as one teaspoon of 1 percent disulfoton could be lethal to a 55-pound dog. This ingredient poses an extreme danger.

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Cocoa Bean Mulch

Made from cocoa bean shells, this mulch can create obstructions in dogs due to the hulls themselves and can also cause chocolate toxicity.

Sewage-Based (Milorganite)

Fertilizers containing milorganite carry a higher risk of toxicity, potentially resulting in gastrointestinal symptoms, muscle pain, and stiffness.

Herbicides, Pesticides, and Insecticides

While most modern herbicides have low toxicity for dogs, some containing certain ingredients can be toxic, causing more severe clinical signs such as tremors or seizures. The same goes for certain pesticides and insecticides.

Fungicides

Fungicides range from non-toxic to toxic, making it crucial to identify the specific ingredient in fertilizers to determine toxicity.

Corn Cobs

Fertilizers often use corn and corn cobs as fillers. Large pieces of debris like mulch, hulls, rocks, or corn cobs can lead to obstruction in dogs, necessitating surgery. Removing any visible chunks or corn cobs from fertilizer before spreading is highly recommended.

Anhydrous Ammonia

Typically found in commercial fertilizers used on farms, anhydrous ammonia is highly corrosive. Contact can cause severe burns to the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes.

Manure

Although slightly toxic when ingested in large amounts, manure is a commonly found additive in fertilizers, leading to vomiting and diarrhea.

Now that we understand the potential dangers, it’s important to know the various types of fertilizers and their risks. Fertilizers generally come in three forms: solid, liquid, and granular. None of these should be ingested, even if labeled “safe for pets.” Always store fertilizers and other lawn and garden products securely in sealed containers, away from your pets.

If you’ve applied a liquid product to your yard, remember that it usually loses its toxicity once dry. So, it’s best to keep your pet indoors until the product has completely dried. Granular or solid fertilizers generally have lower risks when spread across the entire yard, even if your pet licks its paws after running through it.

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The real danger lies in your dog gaining access to an entire bag or a spreader full of fertilizer. Always adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions on applying the fertilizer and the recommended waiting period before allowing your pet back onto the yard. As a general rule, it’s advisable to keep pets off the yard for 48 hours after applying fertilizer.

Now, let’s address the question on many pet parents’ minds: How much fertilizer does it take to poison a dog? Typically, properly diluted fertilizer or ready-to-use products used according to label directions pose minimal risks. Symptoms are usually limited to mild gastrointestinal irritation. The risk of poisoning increases when dogs consume large quantities or if the fertilizer contains additives. Identifying the specific ingredients in the ingested fertilizer is crucial in determining the level of toxicity.

While the primary concern is a dog gaining access to an entire bag or full spreader, it’s also essential to consider any possible plant ingestion if your pet was eating fertilizer from the ground or flower beds. Make yourself aware of common poisonous plants for dogs.

Furthermore, fertilizers can become moldy, leading to tremorgenic toxicity. Symptoms include vomiting, lack of coordination, tremors, and even seizures. When discussing your pet’s fertilizer ingestion with your veterinarian, it’s vital to mention any possible concurrent toxicities, such as ingestion of toxic plants or mold.

If you suspect your dog has eaten fertilizer, the first step is to determine the amount and type of product consumed. Try to gather as much information as possible and promptly call your veterinarian to discuss whether your pet needs to be seen. You can also seek assistance from the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

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Unless specifically instructed to do so by a veterinarian, avoid inducing vomiting at home. Instead, follow your vet’s advice to determine if your dog needs immediate medical attention.

If you witness your pet consuming fertilizer within the past two hours and it was a significant amount, your veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting at the hospital for decontamination. Severe cases may require hospitalization for intravenous fluids and additional therapy, especially if highly toxic additives are involved, there is a risk of intestinal obstruction, or concurrent ingestion of toxic plants.

Your veterinarian will likely conduct a thorough evaluation, including a history of the incident, packaging or label details, and an assessment of specific ingredients. They may perform a complete blood count, serum blood chemistry, and urinalysis for baseline evaluation. Abdominal X-rays may also be recommended to determine the amount ingested and identify any potential obstructions.

The prognosis for fertilizer toxicity in dogs is generally favorable, with most dogs recovering without complications. However, depending on fertilizer additives or potential complications like obstruction or ingestion of toxic plants, more aggressive therapy may be necessary. Fertilizer toxicity is generally considered a low risk, though it’s essential to ascertain the exact exposure and specific ingredients involved.

As with most toxicities, prevention is key! Fertilizers emit odors that can attract dogs, often resulting in large ingestions if they have access to the bags. To prevent fertilizer toxicity in dogs, avoid leaving lawn and garden products within easy reach, such as on the garage floor or unattended in the yard or spreader. Keep all lawn and garden products securely stored in an inaccessible area.

Remember, our furry friends rely on us to keep them safe. By taking the necessary precautions and promptly addressing any concerns about fertilizer ingestion, we can ensure their well-being. Stay vigilant, and enjoy your time with your beloved doggo!