Dogs and yard fertilization, how concerned should we be?

I take my dog for a walk twice a day, everyday, all year long. There are so many things to be concerned about when walking my dog. In the winter, it’s the salt that people put on their sidewalks to melt the ice and snow.  In the summer, it’s the fertilizer that is put on the yard.  It’s not just my neighbors that do it, I do too!  I fertilizer my yard two times per summer. How dangerous is this and how concerned should we be?

Beautiful lush lawns vs safety for our dogs

When we bought a house, we found out very quickly that just watering the lawn wasn’t going to keep it lush, green and weed free.  We needed to fertilize it.  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. Our dogs walk into the grass and they sniff it in, lick it off the grass or walk on it and later lick it off their paws.  Quite often, the fertilizers that we use are mixed with substances that are more harmful than the fertilizers themselves.

To have both a beautiful lawn and a healthy pup, what can we do?

The dilemma with the application of lawn fertilizer is that it goes exactly where your dog wants to put his nose. Dogs by nature have their noses on the ground, sniffing everything. They like to smell the ground and poke their nose into holes. Trouble is, that is where the fertilizer goes until it is absorbed into the ground for the roots of your lawn to convert to food for the grass.  Some fertilizer residues can stay in toxic form for days to weeks.

Lawn fertilizers carry nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, all of which cause irritation to a dog’s stomach when ingested. Some of the additives that may be present in fertilizer are: Iron Disulfoton (responsible for seizures and pancreatitis) Copper Zinc Phosphorous and Ammonium (irritates skin and lungs).

Fertilizer and symptoms of ingestion

Ingestion of insecticides and herbicides can cause bladder cancer in our 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. Lawn fertilizers can cause skin irritation in dogs. While it’s unlikely an ingestion of these elements will cause death, they were never intended to be in your dog’s digestive system. They will most likely cause him a moderate to severe stomachache and bring on vomiting and diarrhea. A dog ingesting larger amounts of phosphorus and potassium commonly reacts by being lethargic.

Tell me more!!!

When our furry 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.

We want both worlds!!

Since pet owners want both worlds — a lush lawn and a protected dog, several manufacturers of lawn care products now produce fertilizers that are considered organic or “more safe” for lawns frequented by our pups. Even when marketed as “safe,” some of these lawn applications may still contain elements that could be harmful to our dogs. Thoroughly check the labels to determine the safety of a product. It can take a bit of searching to find a truly pet-safe lawn fertilizer, according to Gardening Central. Some fertilizers are clearly marked as “not safe” while others have no declaration either way.

Keep Off The Grass

The Dog Owner’s Guide suggests keeping pets off treated grass for 24 hours, as nitrogen can burn the pads of a dog’s foot. The guide also recommends keeping pets indoors during application to prevent an airborne inhalation or skin contact.

In the case of liquid fertilizer, the SFGate states that dogs should be kept off of lawns until the grass is visibly dry. For granular fertilizer, keeping dogs away from grass for 24 hours allows enough time for the soil to absorb the pellets.

What to do if you suspect your dog 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.

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.

Be safe this summer with our pups