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Is Potting Soil Toxic to Dogs? What You Should Know

woman gardening in soil with her black dog

Potting soil is not just dirt. Potting soil is much different from dirt. Often, it doesn’t have any dirt in it at all. Instead, potting soil is a mixture of things, ranging from peat moss to gravel. Most of these things are not blatantly toxic to dogs (though some are). However, they can cause issues in other ways.

For instance, potting soil can cause impaction. Your dog cannot break the items in potting soil down. Therefore, the items will sit in the digestive system until your dog passes them. If your canine only consumes a small amount of potting soil, this isn’t much of a problem, but when your dog consumes a lot, the items can build up in the stomach and cause a clog.

Furthermore, many potting soils will contain bacteria. Organic soils are even more likely to contain bacteria, as the organic matter in the soil is in a constant state of decomposition. Therefore, dogs can also get infections from eating potting soil. However, this is rarer than impaction.

Effects from potting soil are usually seen within a few days but you may notice stomach upset in only a few minutes. If your dog shows impact symptoms, it is time to see a vet. If impaction doesn’t occur, the stomach upset should clear within a few hours. Impaction can occur up to 3 days after the dog consumes the soil.

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Is Fertilizer Poisonous to Dogs?

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Image By: SONIC, Pexels

Many potting soils include innate fertilizers. These fertilizers can contain harmful chemicals that are toxic to dogs. Many inorganic soils have these chemicals, but organic soils also have them. Your dog can become exposed by consuming the toxins.

Minimal amounts of fertilizer can harm your dog, so your canine doesn’t have to eat much of the potting soil to develop symptoms. Large amounts of fertilizer can be life-threatening. However, this large exposure usually occurs when pets come into direct contact with poorly stored fertilizer—not from the potting soil.

Still, you should keep an eye on your dog for signs of fertilizer consumption. Often, these include stomach upset, like nausea and diarrhea. However, these symptoms can also occur when a dog eats any soil, so it can be challenging to determine if it’s the soil or the fertilizer it contains.

If your pet begins to have difficulty breathing, acts confused, experiences changes in behavior, or has seizures, you should seek veterinary attention. Be sure to bring the vet information about what the potting soil contained if it’s readily available.

Organic fertilizers are more dangerous than inorganic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers often include stuff like blood meal, bone meal, fish meal, and similar materials. Sometimes, dogs are attracted to this material because it smells like food. However, it can cause issues if your dog eats it, as it is nutrient-dense.

Usually, complications of consuming organic fertilizer are similar to complications of consuming inorganic fertilizer, like impaction. However, it can also cause severe pancreatitis and veterinary attention is sometimes necessary.

Other Potential Complications

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Image By: SHDStockProject, Shutterstock

While other complications are rare, they can occur depending on the ingredients in the fertilizer. Some potting soils contain insecticides, which can be toxic to dogs if ingested. However, not all soils include insecticides, and not all are toxic. If your dog eats toxic insecticides in large amounts, seizures and breathing problems can occur.

Sometimes, potting soil can contain parasites. This isn’t very common, but it can occur if the potting soil has been exposed outside for an extended period. Furthermore, some bugs are toxic to dogs. If they get into the soil and your dog eats them, toxicity can occur.

Some organic soil mixes contain pieces of toxic plants. If your dog consumes much of the soil (and it contains high concentrations of this plant), it may experience the same symptoms as if it ate the plant. Therefore, various symptoms could occur, depending on what plant your dog ate.

When to See a Vet

vet checking a sick rough collie dog
Image Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

If your dog just consumed a small amount of potting soil, there likely isn’t anything to be concerned about. We recommend moving the potting soil away from where the dog can access it, as you don’t want them consuming more in the future. When your dog consumes a large amount, you should seek veterinary care.

Often, you can take a wait-and-see approach if your dog only consumes a little bit. You should watch your dog for signs of impaction and poisoning. Symptoms can occur days after the exposure, so don’t write off your dog as “okay” immediately.

If your dog consumes a lot, you should speak to a vet. Impaction can occur and is easier to treat the sooner it is diagnosed. Therefore, you’ll want to get your dog to the vet sooner rather than later.

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Potting soil can cause a range of complications depending on the ingredients. All soil can lead to impaction, which occurs when a dog’s digestive system is blocked. This condition is deadly and requires vet treatment.

However, other conditions can occur, too. For instance, many potting soils include fertilizers, which can be toxic to dogs. Parasites and poisonous plants can also be mixed into the soil, though they may not appear on the ingredient list.

In most cases, dogs that eat a small amount of soil don’t require vet care. However, if your dog eats a lot or shows worrisome symptoms, you should speak to your vet promptly.

Featured Image Credit: Greta Hoffman, Pexels


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