Lawn Fertilizing: How To Choose Pet Safe Options

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Fertilization is a must for growing healthy plants. However, fertilizers, especially store-bought fertilizers, can contain chemicals that might harm your pets.

Pets often walk and dig around in our backyards. So, they can accidentally consume the fertilizer when licking their paws. 

While fertilizing with pets is generally safe for animals, a few precautions should be taken to ensure that all nutrients reach the plants. Using pet-friendly fertilizers, keeping your pets from going to the lawn after fertilizing, etc., these practices are sufficient to keep your pets safe.

In this article, I will discuss the different types of fertilizers that can be used with pets, which lawn fertilizers are safe for pets, and outline the precautions that should be taken.

I will also shed some light on what you should do if your pet is poisoned with fertilizer.

So, without further ado, let’s get right to it. 

happy pet dog enjoying a relaxing break on the fresh green grass in the backyard

Are Lawn Fertilizers Harmful To Pets?

Lawn fertilizer can be dangerous to pets. The danger degree depends on the pet’s size and the amount they consume.

The principal hazardous chemicals in most common garden fertilizers are nitrogen, iron, phosphorus, and potassium.

However, they are poorly absorbed in the gut and produce immediate signs of symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, etc.

Their poor absorption is the reason that fertilizer consumption is only a matter of fear when the consumption amount is big. 

Fertilizers with high levels of iron can also induce iron poisoning. The signs of iron poisoning start to become apparent a few days after consumption.

Abdominal discomfort, vomiting, discolored gums, intestinal blockage, trouble breathing, cardiac arrest, etc. are just some of the significant symptoms that might arise.

The most harmful fertilizers are sleeper fertilizers; those that look harmless but contain harmful ingredients like insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or other additives.

These ingredients can be poisonous to pets and can even kill them. Another important thing many homeowners don’t know is that mold can grow in the fertilizer if you leave the bag open for too long.

The fertilizer becomes ten times more dangerous if mold grows because it yields mycotoxins. It has the potential to kill your pets.

Therefore, you must restrict access to the newly fertilized areas of your lawn to your dogs.

The type of fertilizer plays a big role in whether it is harmful or not. The key to safe lawn fertilization also lies here.

How you fertilize your lawn and the interval before you let your pets in, is also one of the determinants.

Effects Of Fertilizer On Cats And Dogs

The ratio of nitrogen to potash to phosphorus in lawn fertilizer is often written as 10:0:40. The good thing is that most of these substances are harmless.

But manufacturers often use insecticides in fertilizers to combat pests like grubs, snails, etc.

Consuming these substances can cause minor gastrointestinal symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

Pets seldom become seriously poisoned from ingesting fertilizer-treated grass, but more severe symptoms might occur if your pet eats the substance directly, right out of the bag.

Seizures and tremors are possible side effects of ingestion straight from the bag. So, as you can understand, the first step to pet-safe fertilization is to keep raw fertilizers out of your pet’s reach.

Follow the labeling instructions and ensure your pets are indoors while applying fertilizer to your lawn. This will mitigate the danger of poisoning.

Pets should be kept off the grass until the soil fully absorbs the fertilizer. These chemicals pose little threat to pets since they are easily washed away by rain after being correctly administered.

In particular, you want to avoid iron fertilizers, which can cause iron poisoning. Some fertilizers may contain less common but more dangerous compounds such as carbamates or organophosphates.

They are poisonous, and your pet may not survive if they consume them. The most severe and potentially fatal clinical indications of exposure to carbamates and organophosphates include: 

  • Drooling
  • Micturition
  • Diarrhea
  • Fraying
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Bronchoconstriction
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Death

Even though these more lethal varieties aren’t commonly seen in stores nowadays, you should lock the garage and keep the fertilizers inside.

What Should You Do If Your Pet Ingests Fertilizer?

Although ingesting minute amounts of fertilizers will not harm your pets, you should take immediate steps if your pet manifests any of the signs I discussed above.

Here is what you should do if your pet eats fertilizer:

Initial Assessment

  • Look for emergency-related symptoms in your dog, such as breathing trouble, puffiness, or unusually colored gingiva.
  • Make sure no additional fertilizer can reach your dog or any other pets. Lock your pet in a room or cage if you have to.
  • Find out the fertilizer’s name, manufacturer, and ingredients. This information should be on the back of the package. If you cannot read it, try to figure out the brand and type of fertilizer.

Diagnosis

After the initial assessment, you must diagnose your pet’s clinical condition. If you think your pet has consumed fertilizer, take them to a vet.

If the amount is small, the symptoms may be primarily gastrointestinal and disappear after a day.

Your pet should take to a clinic, no matter how minor the symptoms are. Bring the container or product pamphlet with you so the veterinarian can verify the product’s components and if the fertilizer contains herbicides, pesticides, etc.

The problem can become serious as the effects of these ingredients can be very severe. Depending on the fertilizer, the vet will base the diagnosis on clinical manifestations such as vomiting and skin sores.

He may also suggest urine and blood testing to check and verify the toxicity levels or detects underlying more severe complications.

As an example:

  • Rose fertilizer may include disulfoton, which is toxic to dogs.
  • Blood meal contains iron which can be hazardous.
  • In the intestines, bone meal can induce cement-like blockages.
  • Pesticides from organophosphates in fertilizers can cause CNS symptoms, convulsions, and death.

Treatment

It’s not always necessary to seek medical assistance if your pet ingests fertilizer.  For example, a young, big dog might not require medical attention from the vet if he consumes only a small amount of fertilizer.

The type of fertilizer your pet ingests is also a huge determinant of whether you should take your pet to the clinic or not. So, call your vet and discuss it in detail.

The course of treatment for dogs that do require medical attention depends on two things; the interval between fertilizer consumption and your visit to the clinic and clinical signs and symptoms.

If the interval is small, your vet may try to flush out the fertilizer from your pet’s system by inducing vomiting, stomach washing, or any other method.

If there are already signs or symptoms of fertilizer poisoning, there is no direct treatment.

The veterinarian will switch to symptomatic treatment instead. The vet may try anti-vomiting medications, anti-diarrheal medications, gut protectant drugs, etc., depending on your pet’s condition.

In the case of dehydration, fluid replacement therapy is a must.

Pain medication is also essential for abdominal, intestinal, or muscular pain signs. Pets rarely require surgery for fertilizer poisoning.

Surgery is only required if the ingested amount is too much or if the fertilizer has a corn cob base because such fertilizers spread inside the body fast.

Are Organic Fertilizers Any Good?

In terms of your grass and the ecology, organic fertilizer is highly recommended. Organic fertilizer is preferable to synthetic fertilizer because it contains safer chemicals.

However, “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s completely safe for your pets. Manufacturers make some organic fertilizers by using animal byproducts.

Such ingredients might make the product more appealing to your pets to eat. Organic fertilizer, like commercial fertilizer, can induce gastrointestinal distress, intestinal blockage, abdominal pain, etc. 

So don’t assume anything is safe for pets simply because it says “organic.” Don’t consider organic fertilizers safe without first reading the application and care directions carefully.

You will see that many experts often consider organic fertilizers the most dangerous form of fertilizer for your pets.

It’s not because they contain something highly hazardous. It’s because pets love eating organic fertilizers, as I said earlier.

Organic fertilizers contain leftover byproducts from farming or meat industries, such as bone, blood, feather, etc.

You might wonder why I am calling these things dangerous. Yes, it won’t harm your pets if they consume just the bone meal or blood meal.

The problem arises when manufacturers incorporate synthetic fertilizers to enhance the efficacy of organic fertilizers.

Organic fertilizers are, therefore, beneficial to your garden but not to your pets. If you are cautious enough, you can keep your pets safe from any harm caused by fertilizers.

Pet-friendly Fertilizers

Many fertilizers provide the best of both worlds; they are friendly to your garden and your pets. Here are some examples of pet-friendly fertilizers:

Manure: Manure is a problem because some canines try to consume it. 3-4 months in a compost bin removes much of the odor and makes it suitable for use around animals and plants. Bear in mind that horse feces might potentially harbor weed seeds.

Compost: Compost is arguably the best fertilizer for your garden. The best part is that making compost requires little to no money.  You can also use compost as your lawn fertilizer .

Seaweed: Nutrient-dense seaweed is a great source of nitrogen. It’s available in both powder and liquid spray forms for sale.

Grass Clippings: Grass clippings can reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer on your lawn by as much as 20%. Depending on the conditions, you may need to mow more often for this to be effective. Overly lengthy snips might be counterproductive.

Fish Emulsions: Although fish emulsion is an excellent fertilizer, it is important to keep in mind that it is a fast-acting form of nitrogen and, if used improperly, can cause plant damage. Dogs could be enticed by the scent and try to destroy your vegetation.

Bone Meal: Blood and bone meal are both natural things that probably won’t hurt your dog, but they might attract your pet because of how they smell and taste. If you don’t want your garden destroyed by your dog, try to avoid both.

Liquid Versus Granular Fertilizer

Liquid fertilizer offers the advantage of letting the soil absorb nutrients faster than granular fertilizer. But after using liquid fertilizer, it’s difficult to assess the condition of the grass.

As the soil absorbs it fast, it is tricky to say whether it’s been absorbed or washed away somewhere else.

So what you should do as a pet owner is to keep your pets away from the lawn until you are certain that the soil has absorbed the fertilizer.

You can add water with the fertilizer for better solubility. Dry grass means fertilizer and water are both absorbed. Always follow the manufacturer’s direction to apply fertilizer; this way there will be no mishaps.

On the other hand, granular fertilizers are, well, granular. They are considered the best to apply.

The granules are easily visible on the grass so it’s easy to say whether the fertilizer has been absorbed or not. After applying granular fertilizer, you must water your lawn thoroughly for proper absorption.

Remember, visible fertilizer granules are the key. 24 hours since the last time you saw granules on the grass is the safe time to let your pets in.

Safety Practice

Wait two days or 48 hours after applying fertilizer to ensure no fertilizer residue on the grass.

Apply fertilizer on a sunny day because the heat from the sun will vaporize the water quickly, which will also help fertilizer absorption deep in the soil.

A rainy day is also pretty helpful for fertilization as it helps the fertilizers go deeper into the ground.

However, you may need to fertilize frequently and wait longer to dry the fertilizer if there is excessive rain because rainwater washes away a good chunk of the fertilizer.

The time that I mentioned above, 24 hours, is variable. If you use excess fertilizers, then waiting might not do any good and harm your pets.

You should practice applying fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Soil cannot absorb the excess fertilizer, and the water can’t wash it away either.

Even though the remnants aren’t much in amount, pets pick them up in their paws automatically and the letter clears them away by licking.

Thus, there is a chance for fertilizers to be ingested by your pets. Some professionals will fertilize your lawn while keeping it safe for your pets.

If you have more than one pet, I highly suggest you consult professionals. Finally, always read the user’s guide on the pack of fertilizer.

What About Mulch?

Mulch can be equally problematic as fertilizer.  Although most mulches are safe, consuming them can adversely affect your pet.

The basic mulch is just tree bark, but other mulch types are available, such as compost, Cocoa mulch, etc., and are made from cocoa bean shells.

It is very commonly used in family homes and is highly aromatic when initially deposited in the yard. Due to the fragrance, mulch is appealing to pets as a food source.

There aren’t many reports of cocoa poisoning in dogs, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Mulch contains a slight amount of theobromine, which can cause some adverse effects.

Here are the cocoa mulch poisoning symptoms:

  • Absence of appetite
  • Excessive salivation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loose motion
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased heart rate
  • Panting
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

The effects depend on the amount of mulch consumed. The small amount should not cause a problem.

However, stop your dog from going near the lawn for the first two weeks after mulch application.

The chance of poisoning decreases with time when the scent reduces due to exposure to light, heat, and rain.

Are Pet Safe Lawn Fertilizers Effective in Achieving Green Grass?

Pet safe lawn fertilizers are designed with pet-friendly ingredients, preventing harm to furry friends while nurturing your lawn. Homeowners can achieve green grass with fertilizers that are eco-conscious and non-toxic, ensuring lush lawns without risking pet health. Their effectiveness matches traditional options, boasting verdant results.

Finl Thoughts on What Lawn Fertilizers Are Safe For Pets

If you want your lawn to thrive, proper lawn care is mandatory. And complete lawn care isn’t possible without fertilizing.

Fertilizing isn’t anything complicated, but the problem arises when you have pets, and most homes have pets nowadays.

Although most fertilizers in the market are pet friendly, you must know and apply pet safety practices to keep your furry friends safe.

In this article, I discussed everything you need to know about pet safety fertilization of your garden and lawn, including what lawn fertilizer is safe for pets.

The pet-safe fertilizers that I mentioned should come in handy for you. Also, knowing the signs and symptoms of fertilizer ingestion in your pets is crucial, so I added that as well.

I hope your pets can now live safely. Best wishes!