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My Dog Ate Fertilizer! Our Vet Explains What to Do

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Vet approved

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Written by

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

BVM BVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Whether you’ve just spread fertilizer on your lawn or water your favorite pot plant, your dog can easily access this common household product. But is fertilizer toxic for dogs? Should you worry if your dog ate fertilizer? Let’s take a look at this plant-boosting product and decide if fertilizer is bad for dogs.

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Why Do Dogs Eat Fertilizer?

For some dogs, eating things they shouldn’t appear to be a life goal! For others, it’s a medical disorder called pica. Whichever camp your pooch falls into, there’s a high chance that they’ll eat something they shouldn’t at some time! Fertilizer is sometimes eaten by the most sensible of dogs if they walk through it and then lick it from their pads. Many fertilizers, especially organic fertilizers, are made from blood or fish—things your dog is likely to find tempting! Lastly, fertilizer is sometimes placed over a corn cob base to make it easier to spread, and it might be that this tempting snack is what causes your dog to be attracted to the fertilizer.

dog in soil in the street dog ate fertilizer
Image Credit: Daniel Tadevosyan, Shutterstock

Can Fertilizers Kill Dogs?

Fertilizers can be toxic to dogs, but just how toxic depends on the type of fertilizer. Most fertilizers contain a mixture of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—the amounts are usually listed on the back as the N-P-K ratio. They usually also contain a combination of other minerals such as copper, manganese, molybdenum, boron, iron, cobalt, and zinc.

For most standard garden fertilizers, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and iron are the major toxic compounds. However, they are thankfully poorly absorbed, and usually cause gastric upset such as drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. In fact, they’re so poorly absorbed that impaction, constipation, and bowel obstruction are major concerns when large amounts of fertilizer have been eaten. Fertilizers with large amounts of iron can also cause iron toxicity, which can show symptoms days after the fertilizer is first ingested.

But the most dangerous fertilizers, and the ones you should most lookout for, are those mixed with other products such as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or other additives. Some of these other ingredients can be very toxic and even fatal to pets.

Lastly, you should be aware of mold contamination, especially in open bags of fertilizer that have been stored for some time. Moldy fertilizer can contain mycotoxins that can be very dangerous to dogs. If your dog ate fertilizer, you should look carefully for signs of mold before calling the vet.

How Much Fertilizer Will Make a Dog Sick?

The amount of fertilizer that will be toxic to your dog depends on the type of fertilizer and size of your dog. Roughly, the dose at which you should be worried about your dog is 0.5g of fertilizer for every 2lb of body weight. In other words, a 20lb dog should definitely visit the vet if they eat just a teaspoon of fertilizer. For liquid fertilizers, the risk of impaction is lower but the same calculation applies—5ml of fertilizer should mean a call to the vet.

Curious dog watching when working with a pitchfork in the garden
Image Credit: Mickedin, Shutterstock

Symptoms of Fertilizer Poisoning in Dogs

The first symptom of fertilizer toxicity you’re likely to see in your dog is gastric upset. Vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and nausea are all early symptoms of a problem. For the more toxic fertilizers, or in the case of large ingestions, you may also see abdominal pain, stiff walking, weakness, or seizures. If your dog has abnormal-colored gums, seizures, or difficulty breathing, you should take them to a vet as soon as possible.

My Dog Ate Fertilizer – What Do I Do?

  • Assess your dog for signs of an emergency such as difficulty breathing, swelling, or abnormal colored gums.
  • Make sure your dog (and any other pets!) can’t get any more fertilizer. This means quickly cleaning up any spills or shutting your pets in another room whilst you take stock of the damage.
  • Find the brand, make, and ingredients of the fertilizer. This will be on the back of the packet, but if you can’t read it you should at least try to determine the brand and make of fertilizer.
  • Call your veterinary clinic (or an emergency clinic if your usual clinic is closed) and explain the situation. In the US, you may choose to call Pet Poison Helpline directly to get advice before speaking to your vet.
  • Follow their recommendations for further investigations and treatment.

Dog Fertilizer Poisoning Treatment

For some types of fertilizer, no treatment might be necessary. For instance, a young, large dog with a very small amount of natural fertilizer might not need to go to the vet for treatment. However, this depends hugely on the type of fertilizer your dog has eaten, so it’s essential that you call the vets and don’t make this decision yourself.

For dogs that do need to go into the clinic, the treatment will depend on how recently they ate the fertilizer and the symptoms that they’re showing. If your dog has eaten the fertilizer within the last couple of hours, it’s likely that your vet will attempt “decontamination”—in other words, they’ll make your dog sick to remove the fertilizer from their system.

If you’re already seeing symptoms of fertilizer poisoning in your dog, there is no antidote. Instead, your vet will treat the symptoms that are showing. Anti-vomiting drugs, gut protectants, and anti-diarrheal drugs may all be used. If your dog is at risk of dehydration, fluids may be given via a drip. Pain relief may also be necessary if your dog is showing signs of abdominal pain or muscle pain.

Rarely, dogs may require surgery to treat a bowel obstruction. This is unusual but can happen when dogs eat a large amount of relatively indigestible fertilizer, especially if the fertilizer has a corn cob base to make it easier to spread.

Siberian husky lying on the ground eating grass
Image Credit: Yuriy Koronovskiy, Shutterstock

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FAQs: What to Do if Dog Eats Fertilizer

How long after fertilizing can I let my dog outside?

You should always read the instructions on your fertilizer fully. If you are using liquid fertilizer, once it has dried it is safe—72 hours after application should be enough to allow it to dry. For granular fertilizers, you should wait until the fertilizer has been rained into the soil, or water after application to allow it to be distributed into the soil. 24 hours after a substantial watering should be plenty.

Can citrus fertilizer hurt dogs?

Citrus fertilizer varies in composition quite widely, but usually has a roughly equal amount of nitrogen and potash, and less phosphorus (20-10-20 or 8-2-10).  They also contain other ingredients such as iron and manganese. Citrus fertilizer is likely to be no more dangerous to your dog than any other fertilizer, but if your dog drinks or eats citrus fertilizer you should call your vet or pet poison helpline with the information on the back of the packet to be sure.

What happens if my dog eats blood and bone fertilizer?

Blood and bone fertilizer is a type of organic fertilizer that contains—you guessed it—dried blood and ground-up bones. It usually comes with ground, dried fish as well. It’s not hard to see why dogs might like to eat this fertilizer! The N-P-K ratio varies according to the formulation, and some products have added other ingredients—although most don’t. Therefore, the fish, blood, and bone fertilizer is one of the safer ones for dogs to consume and is likely to only cause gastric upset. However, because of the flavor your dog is likely to eat more of it—so call your vet or pet poison helpline if you think they helped themselves to more than a tablespoon!

A black French bulldog
Image Credit: PLCNSK, Shutterstock

What happens if my dog eats Miracle-Gro?

Miracle-Gro is a brand name—they make several types of fertilizer from granules to liquids. Because of the huge variety of products, it’s always a good idea to phone poison control or your veterinarian if your dog has ingested Miracle-Gro.

What happens if my dog eats chicken manure fertilizer?

Assuming there are no other added ingredients, chicken manure fertilizer is one of the safer fertilizers for dogs. Whilst eating chicken poo isn’t nice, it’s not likely to harm past a little vomiting and diarrhea. You should watch your pooch for signs of stomach trouble, but if you’re confident there are no other ingredients, and no contamination with mold, you can avoid the rush to the emergency clinic.

My dog ate tomato fertilizer—what now?

Tomato fertilizer is high in potassium. Most tomato fertilizers are liquid formulations and have an N-P-K of around 4-2-6. They may also have added magnesium, especially if the bottle states ‘seaweed extract’. They are no more toxic than other fertilizers and you should assess how much your dog has ingested, then call your veterinarian or pet poison helpline.

Will Scotts fertilizer kill dogs?

Like Miracle-Gro, Scotts is a brand name, and they make a huge variety of products. Like all fertilizers, they can be dangerous—you should call your pet poison helpline or your veterinarian for advice.

My dog ate rose fertilizer, will he be ok?

Rose fertilizer usually contains high potassium but will usually have several other minerals such as molybdenum, lead, and zinc. These added ingredients mean it’s slightly more dangerous than other fertilizers. You should call your pet poison control or veterinarian for advice on what to do next.

Dog eating grass
Image Credit: RB Pet Photography, Shutterstock

My dog ate potting soil with fertilizer, is it safe?

The amount of fertilizer in your potting soil will be minimal. A mouthful of potting soil with added fertilizer will contain a lot less fertilizer than a mouthful of straight fertilizer from the bag. However, the potting soil actually complicates matters. Since impaction is a big concern, the soil will bulk out the fertilizer and make constipation and bowel obstruction more likely. If your dog eats potting soil with the fertilizer you should contact your veterinarian, who may discuss making your dog sick.

My dog ate azalea fertilizer, will he be ok?

Azaleas are acid-loving plants, so azalea fertilizer has a different makeup from normal fertilizer. Whilst formulas vary, they normally have many micronutrients, including iron. In addition, the chemicals are formulated to be available even in acidic conditions. This type of fertilizer is therefore one of the most dangerous to pets and you should call your pet poison helpline for information as soon as you notice your pet has eaten azalea fertilizer.

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