If your dog is anything like mine, exploring the yard, garage, and every place he shouldn’t be is his favorite thing to do. It’s quite scary, however, how many possible toxic items can be found outside of our own homes (and this doesn’t even include the plants!). A number of these potentially poisonous substances come out of storage in the fall.
So as you are fertilizing your lawn or arranging your garage for the colder months, keep the following toxic items in mind. While some of these may only cause stomach upset, others can result in very serious issues. All of them should be stored out of your pet’s reach.
Blood meal is often used as a fertilizer. It may cause vomiting, diarrhea, severe pancreatitis, or iron toxicity if ingested.
Blue-green algae accumulate in standing water during hot, dry weather. Blooms of this algae may cause liver or neurologic toxicity. Signs of liver toxicity include upset stomach, weakness, and yellow gums; liver toxicity can potentially cause death within 24 hours to a few days. Signs associated with the neurotoxin species include sudden onset of tremors/seizures, difficulty breathing, and death within an hour.
Bone meal is another item often used as a fertilizer. It can form a cement-like ball in your pet's stomach, leading to gastrointestinal obstruction and the need for surgery.
Piles of decomposing organic matter and mold may contain extremely potent toxins. Ingesting just a small amount can result in elevated body temperature, agitation, drooling, vomiting, incoordination, and seizures. Prompt intervention is critical!
Take care of your 4th of July leftovers. Fireworks ingestion can cause burns as well as heavy metal toxicity. Signs of ingestion include upset stomach, yellow skin or gums, and tremors/seizures.
Iron is commonly added to fertilizers. (Noticing a theme with fertilizer materials here? Keep reading.) Ingesting iron can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and possible heart and liver effects.
Cocoa bean mulch, a byproduct of chocolate production, is very fragrant and can attract dogs to take a bite. Cocoa bean mulch still contains traces of the animal toxins found in chocolate. Therefore, ingestion of cocoa bean mulch may cause signs similar to chocolate toxicity such as hyperactivity, tremors, elevated heart and respiratory rates, and possible seizures.
Not all mushrooms are toxic. Because it is very difficult to readily identify which mushrooms ARE toxic, all mushrooms should be considered toxic until proven otherwise. Clinical signs vary depending on the type of mushroom ingested and its toxin, but signs may include upset stomach, depression, unsteady walking, and seizures with liver and/or kidney damage occurring later.
Mouse and Rat Poisons
Mouse and rat poisons often make their appearance as we prepare to winterize our garage, cabin, or house. There are four categories of rodenticides available for general use. Each one works in a different way.
- Long-acting anticoagulants (LAACs): LAACs are the most widely used type of rodenticide. If ingested, it causes internal bleeding that you may recognize as coughing, vomiting, nosebleeds, bruising, bleeding gums, weakness, and bloody urine. It takes 2 to 5 days for this poison to take effect. If you suspect that your pet has ingested LAACs, seek veterinary care immediately!
- Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3): Vitamin D3-based rodenticides are some of the most dangerous rat poisons out there. Ingestion causes kidney failure and there is no specific antidote!
- Bromethalin: Bromethalin is a rarer type of rat poison. Ingestion causes brain swelling, which results in tremors, walking "drunk", and seizures. Like cholecalciferol, there is no antidote; treatment is often extended supportive care.
- Phosphides: Phosphides typically come in a poisoned "gummy worm" that is placed in the dirt for mole and gopher control. When ingested, gas production in the stomach can result in severe bloat, vomiting, pain, and possible lung and heart complications.
Rose and Plant Fertilizers
In addition to the fertilizer materials already mentioned, rose and plant fertilizers can include disulfoton or other organophosphates that are extremely toxic. Just 1 teaspoon of 1% disulfoton can kill a 55-pound dog! Signs of ingestion include salivation, urination/defecation, seizures, and difficulty breathing.
Most pesticides or insecticides are basic irritants to pets. However, some include organophosphates with the same impact on your pet as rose and plant fertilizers.
Slug and Snail Baits
The active ingredient in slug and snail bait is typically metaldehyde, which is toxic to all animals (particularly dogs). Signs of ingestion include salivation, vomiting, incoordination, and restlessness that progresses to tremors, seizures, and severe hyperthermia.
If you suspect your pet has ingested any of these toxins, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435), or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680).