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 may include oral burns and stomach irritation. The accidental ingestion of fertilizer by your dog means that he has 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. In addition to 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 of you have recently used the product in your garden and he is acting ill, a visit to the clinic is warranted without delay.
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 mucus 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.
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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. 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:
- Breathing difficulties
- Lack of coordination
- Blue or brown mucus membranes
Fertilizer typically comes in three forms which are solid, liquid, and granular.
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 poisonous effects. Some of the additives that may be present in fertilizer are:
- Disulfoton (responsible for seizures and pancreatitis)
- Ammonium (irritates skin and lungs)
Diagnosis of Fertilizers Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect that your pet has come in contact with fertilizer bring him to the veterinarian to determine the level of toxicosis. In the case of a basic fertilizer, the symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal and often will resolve within a day or two. It’s best to have your pet checked 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 are much harsher. 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
- Fertilizers containing pesticides made with organophosphates can lead to CNS symptoms, seizures, and death
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 his 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.
Recovery of Fertilizers Poisoning in Dogs
Canine patients can recover quite well 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 will most often 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 will be longer. In the future, especially if your dog has a 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.
Fertilizers Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 12 month old beagle dug small pellets up in our friends garden and ate them. They were Yates organic lifter pellets, we don’t know how many he ate before we saw him. He is lethargic but has not vomitted. Does he need to go to a vet? What precautions can we take to avoid sickness?
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I think my 3 month old shih tzu was exposed to fertilizer and he is lethargic. He drinks enough, eats just a little, poops and pees and wants to sleep a lot. What should I do? Should I take him to a vet?
If you suspect that your pup was exposed to fertilizer, it would be best to visit your Veterinarian, especially if you are seeing these symptoms. There are many different types of fertilizer, some are very toxic and others not so much; if you have the packaging or any information it would help your Veterinarian. Also, the Pet Poison Helpline would probably be able to help you as well, but they will most likely refer you to your Veterinarian or Emergency Clinic. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
My dog which is a french mastiff ate a big amount of fertilizer and now he feels super tired and doesn't want to move much his breathing is fine and everything else what do I do? Besides using up 600$ for a treatment
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We Have a shitzu/ maltize 11 yrs old moved to a different environment where the association keeps the lawn care, he is getting red paw red around the eyes and mouth it's getting worse. removed from the invironment for 12 days he was getting better. What to do?
In a case like Bruno’s, it seems that there are two main options, removal of the fertiliser from his environment (I know that your HOA deals with that) or remove Bruno from the area. Managing of the symptoms of this level of irritation isn’t advisable long term when it is a preventable condition (unlike allergies to plants or trees), especially in an older dog like Bruno. I don’t know if it is worth a shot speaking with your HOA explaining the situation of Bruno and that it may affect other animals including wildlife etc… Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Hi, i have a labrador and is 6 months and was poisoned with fertilizer. We took him to the vet and was discharged after 2 days. Prescription was given for his nausea and for his stomach that was caustic. However he seems weak which is normal, my problem is that he isn't eating hardly anything. Any suggestions?
My dogs a french mastiff and he ate alot of fertilizer and now he feels super tired and looks like he barley wants to move but his breathing Is just fine what do I do?
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