Is Lawn Fertilizer Safe For Dogs? Will It Harm My Dog Bad?

is fertilizer safe for dogs

Canine Bible is reader-supported. We receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Learn more.

When it comes to fertilizing your lawn, there are many options available. You can choose between organic or synthetic fertilizers; there are even pre-mixed solutions for convenience. However, a common concern arises: Is lawn fertilizer safe for dogs?

Typically, lawn fertilizers contain essential nutrients that promote plant growth. However, these same nutrients can be toxic to dogs if ingested in large quantities. But how can you determine if your lawn fertilizer is safe for your dog? What ingredients in fertilizers are toxic to dogs? And where can you find pet-safe lawn fertilizers?

Today, we’ll guide you on identifying toxic lawn fertilizers for pets, explaining what constitutes a safe fertilizer for dogs, and providing tips on keeping dogs safe when applying fertilizer to your lawn. Let’s dive in!

Is Lawn Fertilizer Safe For Dogs?

Generally, traditional lawn care fertilizers are not safe. Frequently, fertilizers use synthetic ingredients and chemicals that can pose a higher risk due to their concentrated chemical contents (N-P-K), leading to various health issues in dogs. Fertilizers are often combined with weedkillers (herbicides), pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, and snail bait. Depending on the component, these components make fertilizers unsafe and toxic for dogs and other pets if ingested or inhaled in large or small quantities. For instance, by their very nature, pesticides are poisonous—their purpose is to kill insects and animals. Fertilizers typically come in solid, liquid, and granular forms. None of these types of fertilizer should be ingested or inhaled.

Is Lawn Fertilizer Bad For Dogs?

Lawn fertilizer chemicals have come under tremendous scrutiny in recent years and have been blamed for harming and even causing deaths in dogs.[1],[2]

Dogs are particularly vulnerable because they tend to roll around in the grass and dig in the dirt. You may not realize that your dog could ingest harmful chemicals whenever they enjoy a romp in the backyard.

Many pet-friendly fertilizer brands have banned pesticides and certain fertilizer ingredients, halting the dangers of their use and misuse. These decisions are not random; a study by the National Cancer Institute found that dogs were two times more likely to develop lymphoma if their owners used a popular herbicide on their lawns four or more times a year.[3]

Some fertilizers contain dangerous herbicides like organophosphates, which can cause symptoms in dogs such as tremors, seizures, and abnormal heart rates.

Can Lawn Fertilizer Harm Dogs?

Fertilizers can be harmful and toxic to dogs, but it depends on the ingredients that make up the fertilizer. The most common components in lawn fertilizers can be broadly categorized into macronutrients, micronutrients, and other possible additives. Here’s a breakdown of these components and their toxicity analysis.

Micronutrients

The three primary nutrients required for plant growth are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are typically the main ingredients in most fertilizers.

Nitrogen, Phosphorus, & Potassium (N-P-K)

Fertilizers contain one or more essential elements, benefiting your lawn in various ways. When used correctly, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium generally do not pose a risk to our pets. However, if consumed in significant amounts, they can be harmful.

Secondary Nutrients

  • Calcium (Ca): Important for cell wall structure and growth, contributing to the overall strength and health of the grass. It is usually safe, but excessive ingestion can lead to problems, especially in dogs prone to calcium oxalate stones.
  • Magnesium (Mg): Central component of chlorophyll, necessary for photosynthesis and energy transfer. Generally safe in small amounts; however, large doses can lead to magnesium overdose, affecting neurological and muscular functions.
  • Sulfur (S): Helps in chlorophyll formation and protein production, enhancing plant growth and resistance to stress. Safe in minimal quantities, typically found in fertilizers, but can irritate the respiratory tract if inhaled in powdered form.

Micronutrients

These are needed in smaller quantities but are still essential for the balanced growth of the lawn. Common micronutrients in lawn fertilizers include:

  • Arsenic
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Iron
  • Cadmium
  • Sodium
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Ammonium (irritates skin and lungs)
  • Disulfoton (responsible for seizures and pancreatitis)
  • Boron
  • Cobalt
  • Disulfoton
  • Manganese

Other Additives

Many fertilizers include weed and other pest control chemicals that are highly toxic to dogs. If your fertilizer contains any of the items listed below, you should avoid it.

  • Herbicides (i.e., organophosphates, 2,4-D)
  • Fungicides
  • Pesticides (i.e., carbamates)
  • Cocoa mulch
  • Insecticides
  • Snail bait
Fertilizers containing pesticides and herbicides can be harmful to dogs — Image: Canine Bible

How to Keep Dogs Safe After Lawn Fertilizer Application

Ensuring the safety of your dogs during and after the application of lawn fertilizer involves implementing effective strategies to prevent accidental exposure.

The key to avoiding fertilizer poisoning in dogs is to adhere to product instructions, waiting periods, and securing your dog to prevent contact with the fertilizer during its application and immediately afterward. Here are some key measures to keep in mind:

6 Ways to Make Lawn Fertilizer Safe For Dogs

Adhere to guidelinesEvery fertilizer product comes with specific instructions regarding application rates, methods, and safety precautions, including advice on how long to keep pets off the lawn post-application.
Understand the productSome fertilizers may have longer waiting periods due to their formulation or the inclusion of pesticides and herbicides, which can be more harmful to pets. Familiarizing yourself with the product details can help you take appropriate safety measures.
Apply fertilizer carefullyEnsure the fertilizer is evenly distributed and strictly adhere to the recommended application rates. Over-application poses environmental risks and increases the potential hazard to your pets.
Waiting periodsThese are critical for ensuring the fertilizer has been absorbed into the soil, significantly reducing the risk of exposure to your pets. Waiting periods can vary, so following the product’s recommendations is essential. To avoid pet poisoning, it is recommended that your pets stay off the lawn until the fertilizer is absorbed into the soil.
Secure the areaBefore applying fertilizer, ensure your dogs are indoors or in a secure area away from the lawn. This precaution prevents them from coming into contact with the fertilizer both during its application and immediately afterward.
Water the lawn after applicationWatering helps the fertilizer absorb into the soil more quickly, reducing the likelihood of your dog coming into contact with the granules or chemicals.

Symptoms of Fertilizer Poisoning In Dogs

If your dog has ingested or inhaled fertilizer, here are some symptoms it could experience.

  • Ulceration in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Redness on the skin
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Tearing and redness of the eyes
  • Excessive blinking
  • Vomiting
  • Burns on the pads (if your pet walked through in your fertilizer application)
  • Licking or chewing on feet
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy and sleepiness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing

Serious Symptoms

Dogs that eat a substantial amount of fertilizer instead of accidentally ingesting it from the lawn can suffer much more serious symptoms. There are three types of symptoms for severe poisoning cases, including central (peripheral), muscarinic (parasympathetic), and nicotinic (neuromuscular and neural).

Central Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Coma
  • Convulsions
  • Agitation
  • Involuntary movements of the tongue
  • Loss of voluntary movement
  • Uncontrollable repetitive movements
  • Impaired digestion
  • Nerve pain and tingling
  • Numbness
  • Sweating
  • Respiratory distress
  • Restlessness

Muscarinic Symptoms:

  • Breathing trouble
  • Decreased heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive salivation
  • Frequent urination
  • Gastric cramping
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Slow reflexes
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes

Nicotinic Symptoms

  • Cramping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Respiratory paralysis
  • Twitching muscles
  • Weakness

What Should I Do If My Dog Reacted Badly to Fertilizer?

If your dog reacts badly to a fertilizer, it’s important to call your veterinarian if your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above or if you’re concerned about your dog’s condition.

Can’t reach your vet? Contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661 or chat live with a veterinary professional via our online vet chat or video chat support (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Dogs showing severe symptoms, such as blood in their vomit or stool, difficulty breathing, weakness, or collapse, should be taken to the veterinarian immediately.

What Lawn Fertilizer Is Safe For Dogs?

While some lawn and garden products contain chemicals that pose a risk to our four-legged friends, many brands offer 100% pet-safe options. These pet-safe fertilizers are made from all-natural, non-toxic ingredients, ensuring you never have to compromise between maintaining a beautiful green space and your pet’s safety. Pet-safe fertilizers eliminate your pets’ exposure to harmful chemicals. Additionally, opting for pet-friendly fertilizers can significantly reduce the waiting time before letting your pet roam freely on your lawn.

One easy way to determine whether a particular lawn fertilizer is likely to be safe is to look for “signal” words on the label, such as “pet-safe,” “non-toxic,” “organic,” and “EPA” certified when choosing lawn products.

However, it’s important to remember that even “pet-friendly” products can pose risks to your pets. Despite a quicker drying and absorption process, keeping your pet away from the treated area during and immediately after application is best to ensure their safety. Always read the package instructions carefully before allowing your pet to enter the treated area.

Consider natural lawn care alternatives if you’re concerned about using chemical lawn products. Using compost or bone meal as fertilizer and corn gluten to control weeds are effective natural fertilizing options that can help your lawn thrive without chemical treatments.

Where to Buy Pet-Safe Lawn Fertilizer?

The best place to get pet-safe lawn fertilizer is online. Read our best pet-safe grass fertilizer reviews above to find the option that meets your needs.

We searched for pet-safe lawn fertilizers at Home Depot and Lowe’s, but options were limited, and some didn’t even mention the word pet on the label, so we chose to avoid them. Many products on the market claim to be safe for pets regarding lawn fertilizer. However, it is important to research before applying any product to your lawn.

pet safe lawn fertilizer

Is Nitrogen Fertilizer Safe For Dogs?

Nitrogen is a common ingredient in many lawn fertilizers. These organic compounds generally do not harm dogs, provided they have been absorbed by the soil before your dog resumes roaming around your lawn.

The primary risk to dogs from nitrogen fertilizer arises through ingestion, whether directly from the bag or by licking their paws after walking on a treated lawn. Such exposure can lead to nitrogen poisoning in dogs, manifesting symptoms that vary from mild gastrointestinal upset to severe conditions like tremors, seizures, and systemic failure. Beyond ingestion, dermal exposure is also a concern; contact with nitrogen fertilizers can irritate dogs’ skin or cause dermatitis, particularly in those with sensitive skin or allergies. Additionally, inhalation of dust or particles from granular nitrogen fertilizers can lead to respiratory irritation in dogs, highlighting the range of risks these substances pose to canine health. Also, dogs can be susceptible to the smell of nitrogen fertilizer, so keeping them away from the area while applying it is important.

Is Organic Lawn Fertilizer Safe For Dogs?

Organic fertilizers should be used with caution. Although often regarded as more natural and thus safer for people and animals, caution is essential when applying any type of fertilizer, including organic ones. This caution is particularly important for organic fertilizers, as dogs may be attracted to their scent, given that these products are made from plant or animal byproducts such as manure, guano, dried and powdered blood, ground bone, crushed shells, finely pulverized fish, phosphate rock, and wood.

While these organic products are generally safe for plants, they can pose risks to dogs if ingested. Consumption of large amounts of these materials can lead to digestive irritation or bowel obstruction, potentially incurring significant veterinary expenses.

Therefore, it’s crucial to handle, use, and store organic fertilizers with the same level of caution as you would with inorganic fertilizers to ensure your dog’s safety.

Is Slow-Release Fertilizer Safe For Dogs?

Slow-release fertilizer is designed to gradually release nutrients, benefiting plants by minimizing the risk of nutrient burn and promoting uniform growth. However, caution is warranted with some slow-release fertilizers, as they may contain chemicals harmful to dogs if ingested. For instance, certain slow-release fertilizers use prills or pellets coated with urea-formaldehyde, a substance the EPA has identified as a potential carcinogen in animals.[4] Additionally, other slow-release fertilizers may be coated with plastic resin or sulfur-based polymers, which can also be toxic to dogs in significant quantities. These materials can cause irritation and burns upon skin contact. Therefore, it’s crucial to use slow-release fertilizers carefully around dogs, ensuring they are kept away from treated areas to prevent accidental ingestion or contact.

Is Lawn Fertilizer Safe For Puppies?

Most commercial lawn fertilizers are toxic to puppies. Even if your puppy is not technically allergic to them, make sure your pup is not exposed to them. Though most lawn fertilizers state they are safe once they are dry, puppies may still be more susceptible to fertilizer poisoning than adult dogs due to their not fully-developed immune system. Puppies are also more likely to eat or lick any on the grass, so be extra cautious in not exposing your puppy to fertilizers.

Most Toxic Lawn Care Chemical For Pets (Video)

Breeds Prone to Fertilizer Allergies

 Some breeds tend to be more susceptible to fertilizer allergies.

  • Beagles
  • Scottish Terriers
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • West Highland White Terriers
  • Wirehair Terriers

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common questions about fertilizers and dog safety for dog parents.

Scotts Turf Builder fertilizer is dog-friendly. If you follow the directions on the bag, Scotts Turf Builder will not harm your dog, other pets, or family members. Fertilizer-only products like Turf Builder contain non-toxic compounds that don’t put your pet at risk. A few Scotts products, however, combine fertilizers with herbicides to suppress or kill weeds. Your pet’s health may be at risk from these products. These products can be highly toxic, so keeping an eye on your pet using a combination of fertilizer and herbicide is essential.

The answer for most liquid lawn fertilizers depends on the ingredients. Most liquid fertilizers are made with NPK, which stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These are essential plant nutrients but can harm dogs if ingested in large quantities. Fortunately, some liquid fertilizers are specifically designed to be safe for pets. So, if you want to use liquid fertilizer on your lawn without worrying about your dog’s safety, choose a product for pet-friendly yards. A great benefit of liquid lawn fertilizers is their faster absorption rates than solid or granular fertilizers. This means that pets can return faster to your lawn after application.

People and pets may return to the treated area after the dust has settled.

Sunday Lawn care fertilizer is designed with safety in mind. The company is highly selective about the ingredients they use. Their ingredients break down quickly and don’t persist in the environment. After the products dry, your dogs can return to playing outside immediately.

10-10-10 fertilizer is not harmful to dogs. However, using the fertilizer properly and keeping your dog away from the treated area until the fertilizer can soak into the ground is essential. The fertilizer can irritate your dog’s skin and eyes if it comes into contact with them. The second factor to consider is the type of 10-10-10 fertilizer. Some fertilizer brands contain toxic dog ingredients, so checking the label before using them is important. As long as you keep dogs out of the area while you treat until your Fertilizer 10-10-10 has had time to dry or settle ultimately, it is safe for pets to return and resume normal activity.

According to the product label, Scoots Weed & Feed Turf Builder is safe for pets. However, this answer is based on customer testimonials, and the company doesn’t label this product as safe for pets. While applying the product, ensure there are no pets in the area. After the treated areas have dried completely, chewing or eating grass will not harm your pet, and they can resume normal activity.

Lesco weed and feed fertilizers contain herbicides, which are unsafe for dogs, as are all chemical herbicide products.

Upon inspecting the label, we didn’t see any pet-friendly reference, so it’s safe to assume Vigoro fertilizer is inappropriate for dogs. The company states that animals should be removed from the area before applying their Vigoro Weed & Feed Florida lawn fertilizer. Keep pets off the lawn until the product is watered in and allowed to dry.

Milorganite is safe for children and pets when used as directed and stored out of their reach. However, the company itself says that if your dog happens to eat it, there’s a chance your pup may experience varying degrees of sickness or get sick.

All products used by TruGreen are registered for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are selected based on several criteria, including health, safety and the environment. TruGreen advises customers to allow the fertilizer application to dry before their families and pets can resume enjoying their lawns. Depending on weather conditions, drying usually takes 1-2 hours.

Is Lawn Fertilizer Safe For Dogs? Conclusion

While lawns and gardens are great places for dogs to play and relax, it’s important to remember they can also have hazards such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Remember that your lawn is an extension of your home, especially if you have dogs. This grassy space should be a safe place for your dogs and cats to run and a comfortable area for your kids to play.

Hire a professional to apply lawn chemicals if you can. When using lawn chemicals yourself, read the label carefully, follow the directions, be aware of the effects of exposure, and do not overapply. Repeated exposure to lawn chemicals and improper handling can make them dangerous, so wear personal protective equipment. After the product is applied, the label will indicate when it is safe for dogs to re-enter the area. 

We strongly recommend using pet-safe lawn fertilizers to minimize all risks associated with fertilizing your lawn.


Like It? Subscribe & Share!

* indicates required

Sources

Canine Bible uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process and product review methodology to learn more about how we fact-check, test products, and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. WYFF News 4
  2. DMV360
  3. NYT 
  4. Environmental Protection Agency
Editorial Team at Canine Bible

Canine Bible authorship represents the unified voice of our entire editorial team and our in-house veterinarians rather than a single author. Each article, blog post, and review published under the Canine Bible name undergoes a rigorous review process, involving all team members to guarantee accuracy and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research. This collaborative effort is an integral part of our editorial process and aligns with our four pillars of content creation. This approach ensures our content is backed by expert knowledge and factual information, offering our readers reliable, actionable, and trustworthy content.

Similar Posts