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What is Fertilizers Poisoning?

When our canine family members come in contact with fertilizer products, the effects can range from mild to severe. Depending on the length of time of contact and how the fertilizer poisoning occurred, complications can include oral burns, stomach irritation, or severe toxicities. The accidental ingestion of fertilizer by your dog means that they have eaten a product that can possibly contain harmful substances (herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides) in addition to the compounds (phosphorous, iron, nitrogen) which are toxic when consumed in large amounts. 

Along with vomiting and breathing difficulties, fertilizers can cause ulceration in the gastrointestinal tract and burns on the skin. If you suspect that your dog has eaten fertilizer, or if you have recently used the product in your garden and your dog is acting ill, take them to see a veterinarian right away.

Fertilizers used in our gardens to enhance the beauty and growth of our plants can be very toxic to our pets when ingested or exposed to the skin and mucous membranes. Quite often, the fertilizers that we use are mixed with substances that are more harmful than the fertilizers themselves. In fact, the ingestion of some products can be fatal.

There is no such thing as a one hundred percent pet safe lawn weed killer and fertilizer. If you feel that you must treat your lawn, keep your dog safely inside as you do so.

Fertilizers Poisoning Average Cost

From 48 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$600

Symptoms of Fertilizers Poisoning in Dogs

A case of mild exposure to fertilizer can result in burns on the pads of the feet if your pet walked through or rolled in your fertilizer application, or irritation to the mouth or eyes after consumption or inhalation of the product you used. Serious complications can become evident if your pet has ingested a large amount. Some pets find fertilizer to be palatable or may eat the product simply because of their curious nature.

  • Dermal effects can be ulcerations and redness on the skin
  • Ocular signs can be tearing and redness of the eyes which should be investigated further
  • Without the addition of herbicides and pesticides, poisoning may cause gastrointestinal upset
  • Vomiting may occur
  • Diarrhea is common
  • Lethargy may be apparent
  • There could be abdominal pain

When there are pesticides and herbicides in the fertilizer, the effects can be very serious. For example, if iron is present, in addition to bloody diarrhea there can be liver damage, kidney damage, and heart problems. Additional signs of distress due to fertilizer poisoning containing pesticides and herbicides can include:

  • Salivation
  • Fever
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Urination
  • Defecation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Blue or brown mucous membranes
  • Seizures
  • Death

Types

Fertilizer typically comes in three forms which are solid, liquid, and granular. While none of these types of fertilizer should be ingested or inhaled, there are some products labeled as "lawn fertilizer safe for pets". This means your pet can go back on the grass after a delayed period of time. Follow the manufacturer's directions exactly. In some cases, you should walk your dog on the street as opposed to playtime in the yard for a few days after applying the lawn product. 

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Causes of Fertilizers Poisoning in Dogs

A dog can be exposed to fertilizer by simply walking across a lawn that has been treated. Some fertilizer residues can stay in toxic form for days to weeks. Aside from the accidental ingestion of a product that the pet finds palatable, chewing on treated grass or licking the fur and feet after a dermal exposure can cause toxic effects. Some of the additives that may be present in fertilizer are:

  • Iron
  • Disulfoton (responsible for seizures and pancreatitis)
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorous
  • Ammonium (irritates skin and lungs)
  • Sodium
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
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Diagnosis of Fertilizers Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect that your pet has come in contact with fertilizer, bring them to the veterinarian to determine the level of toxicosis. In the case of a basic fertilizer exposure, the symptoms might be mostly gastrointestinal and may resolve within a day or two. It is always best to have your pet checked at the clinic and be sure to bring along the container or product leaflet so the veterinarian can verify the ingredients of the product.

If the fertilizer contains herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides the situation may become more urgent because the toxic effects of fertilizer containing these additives can be much more severe.  The veterinarian will base the diagnosis on clinical signs (vomiting, dermal ulcers) and may want to do additional urinalysis and blood testing to check toxicity levels or to look for signs of secondary illness like pancreatitis, depending on the type of fertilizer. For example:

  • Rose fertilizer can contain disulfoton which can be fatal to canines
  • Blood meal can have toxic levels of iron
  • Bone meal can cause cement-like obstructions in the intestines
  • Fertilizers containing pesticides made with organophosphates can lead to CNS symptoms, seizures, and death
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Treatment of Fertilizers Poisoning in Dogs

Treatment will vary depending on factors such as the type of fertilizer exposure or ingestion, how much of the product was eaten, and how long the fertilizer was on the skin. Treatment for fertilizer poisoning in the case of additional herbicides and pesticides will vary due to the product. Many cases of fertilizer poisoning involve hospitalization, particularly if the poisoning is extensive.

The main therapy involves supportive means to stabilize your dog and control their breathing and heart rate. Other treatment steps could include medication to increase urine output and bowel movements, gastroprotectants for stomach issues, poison absorbents, and topical medicines for skin irritation.

If you plan to use lawn care products, you may be wondering how long your dog should stay off the grass after fertilizing. If you are using a dry fertilizer, keep your dog off the grass until after a rainfall. If using a wet product, the solution must be completely dry or you risk exposing your dog to toxic chemicals again. A second exposure may result in a longer treatment process, with less than favorable results for your furry buddy.  All fertilizer products have very specific instructions on exposure, and it is important to follow these instructions exactly.  

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Recovery of Fertilizers Poisoning in Dogs

Canine patients can recover from a fertilizer poisoning; if the effects and secondary complications were extensive, more recovery time may be needed. Dogs who have consumed a small amount of fertilizer might be back to normal in a day or two, but pets who have ingested significant amounts of a fertilizer such as blood meal or rose bush fertilizer where there could be iron, organophosphate, copper, or ammonium for instance, the recovery can be more difficult.  

In the future, especially if your dog has palatability for fertilizer or a curious nature, be certain to store all garden and household products out of reach. Do not allow your pet on the lawn after treatment until all traces of any gardening product are gone. Always keep the original packaging on hand in case of accidental exposure, and follow the instructions for the product.  

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Fertilizers Poisoning Average Cost

From 48 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$600

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Fertilizers Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Australian Shepherd

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two years

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Unknown severity

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6 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None Yet

we have a blue granular plant food in a container. I walked in and he had the plastic top to it with plant food scattered everywhere. I don't think he was eating the food just tearing the plastic top. Not sure what to do or look for. He weighs 55 lbs ballpark.

Jan. 27, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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6 Recommendations

Hello, without knowing what active ingredients are in that mixture it is hard to say if it is toxic or not. It would be best for your dog to see your vet. Some of these just a little can cause a lot of major issues.

Jan. 27, 2021

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Pit Mix

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1 1/2

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

My dog ate a small amount of organic grass food about an hour ago

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this platform is not set up for urgent emails. That can be quite toxic, and I hope that she is okay. I hope that she was able to see a veterinarian if needed.

Oct. 10, 2020

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Fertilizers Poisoning Average Cost

From 48 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$600

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