The spring weather is upon us and the gardeners of Frederick, MD have begun planning and preparing flower beds and gardens for the season. Fertilizer is a common purchase during the season that can be potentially toxic to dogs and cats. Included in the list of dangerous fertilizers and mulch are blood meal, bone meal, cocoa bean mulch and fertilizers that contain iron.
Blood Meal: made of dried, ground and flash-frozen blood. It contains 12% nitrogen, which is desirable for gardening, but not for your pet. Some are also fortified with iron, which can result in iron toxicity. Blood meal has a generally mild to moderate level of toxicity. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea and severe pancreatitis. It can also cause nausea, drooling, bloody vomit, lethargy, abdominal pain and bloat.
Bone Meal: made of defatted, dried and flash-frozen animal bones that are ground to a powder. Gardeners use bone meal to dust spring bulbs to prevent squirrels from ingesting the bulbs. It is a great organic fertilizer, but when your pet consumes this fertilizer in large amounts, a large cement-like bowling ball foreign body can form in the stomach causing an obstruction. This fertilizer generally has a mild to moderate level of toxicity. Symptoms can include drooling, nausea, vomiting (acute or delayed onset), diarrhea, abnormal posture due to abdominal pain, difficulty breathing and “muddy” colored gums.
Cocoa Bean Mulch: made of discarded hulls or shells of the cocoa bean, which are by-products of chocolate production. The processed hulls can contain theobromine and caffeine which can be dangerous to pets. The “chocolate like” smell is very enticing to dogs and cats. Cocoa bean mulch varieties with higher toxin concentrations can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, muscle tremors and seizures. In extreme cases, death can occur.
Fertilizers containing iron: most fertilizers contain varying amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. They may also contain iron, copper, zinc, cobalt, boron, manganese and molybdenum which may be toxic in large concentrations. Small ingestions may result in mild stomach upset. Large ingestions may result in severe poisoning. Iron toxicity can cause bloody vomiting and diarrhea from gastrointestinal hemorrhage, lethargy, abdominal pain, shock, elevated heart rate, panting, tremors and can effect organ systems.
Below are steps you can take if you suspect your pet has been poisoned:
1. Immediately remove your pet from the area and make sure no other pets are exposed to the area.
2. Check to make sure your pet is breathing normally and acting normally.
3. Collect a sample of the material and save the packaging, vial or container. This information is necessary when speaking with a Kingsbrook Animal Hospital team member or to a Pet Poison Helpline expert.
4. Do NOT give your dog any home remedies or induce vomiting without speaking with a Kingsbrook Animal Hospital team member or a Pet Poison Helpline expert. It actually may be detrimental or contraindicated to induce vomiting or giving home remedies.
5. Get help! Below are phone numbers that we recommend programming into your cell phone for immediate access to help.
6. Report the toxicity immediately. The prognosis is always better when a suspected toxicity is reported immediately. Please don’t wait to see if your pet becomes ill before contacting us for help. The sooner, the better!
Kingsbrook Animal Hospital: 301-631-6900
CARE (Crossroads Animal Referral and Emergency): 301-662-2273