Attention Gardeners!

Part of Sue Ann’s Spring Blog series…

This is the time we start thinking about adding fertilizers and plant food to our gardens and lawn. If it is applied according to directions, you probably won’t have an issue with your pets getting sick from it. Try to put it down a day before it rains, so it can soak into the ground. However, you do want to make sure you don’t leave the bag open for your pet to get into because direct contact could cause serious toxicosis. You also want to make sure that your plant food and fertilizer is not mixed with other toxic products such as iron or insecticides as well because that could make them really sick too! If any of those things happen, call your vet or the emergency vet as soon as possible to prevent serious complications.

Bone meal, blood meal, feather meal, and fishmeal are also products to watch for. Not necessarily for the toxicity of the product, but because if ingested in larger amounts by a pet, they could result in a foreign body obstruction (FBO), severe pancreatitis or GI tract irritation. In addition, bone meal is often dusted on plant bulbs such as tulips, hyacinth and daffodil bulbs, which are extremely toxic to your dogs. Bone meal is highly palatable to dogs and can result in them digging up and ingesting your newly planted spring bulbs. If any of this happens, contact your vet or the emergency vet as soon as possible for treatment. You may need x-rays in the event of an FBO. You may also need fluids to help flush the system.

Mulch can be another toxin that you will need to protect your dogs from. Although it is usually shredded tree bark, it can also be compost (decaying matter) or Cocoa mulch, which is made from the shells or hulls of the cocoa bean. When it is first put down, there is a faint smell of chocolate, which is pretty enticing to dogs. If your dog decides he/she likes it and ingests more than a few licks, your dog could develop cocoa mulch poisoning, which is very similar to chocolate toxicosis. If your dog develops any of these clinical signs: agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, panting, tachycardia, polyuria, hyperthermia, muscle tremors or seizures, contact your veterinarian a.s.a.p.! Treatment may be necessary for 72-96 hours after ingestion or until the clinical signs are gone.

So, just a reminder – when doing your spring gardening, remember that there may be products which are toxic to your dogs and cats. The prognosis for the poisoned pet is fair to excellent when it is treated immediately. When in doubt, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

( The information in this piece was summarized from “Fertilizer Dangers for Pets” by Dr. Justine Lee, DVM.