Since yesterday was such a long one and the toxins were so nasty, today we’re going to cover something a bit less dangerous overall: fertilizers and firelogs! While there are some concerns for both of these substances (namely if your pet ingests too much to easily pass through the GI tract), these types of exposures do not tend to be life-threatening.
Exposures involving plain fertilizer tend to be fairly mild.
There are hundreds of different ingredients that can be added to a fertilizer. Some formulas will contain cocoa, pesticides, herbicides, iron, and any multitude of other chemicals designed to enhance the growth of many different types of plants. There are also additional concerns if a pet gets into some that is spoiled or moldy.
Since each individual chemical should be assessed individually, we’re just going to focus on plain fertilizers. These are the common chemical or organic plant food that contains a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Most labels will have a breakdown of analysis of these ingredients and use words such as “total nitrogen”, “phosphates”, and “potash”. These are all synonyms for the basic nutrients we find in common plant food. Often, these nutrients come from some form of compost such as poultry feces or dead fish (yum).
When an animal ingests a smaller amount of fertilizer, signs are mainly related to the GI tract, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Some of them will cause muscle stiffness or soreness within 24-48 hours of ingestion. These signs tend to be temporary, and should fade on their own, however some animals may display stiffness that seems to be more severe, causing them to have difficulties moving or walking. In these cases, they may need some pain medication from a vet to help them until they start to feel better.
When large amounts are swallowed, we start to get concerned about it passing through the GI tract. This tends to be more concerning in dry formulas (as opposed to the liquids), and are of higher risk when they contain things like bone meal. Dry fertilizer that gets stuck in the intestines while passing poses a risk of causing an obstruction.
Treatment is usually limited to inducing vomiting to help get the material out of their stomachs, and then management at home. We often will add a bit of bulk (in the form of plain wheat bread or plain canned pumpkin with no sugar or spices) to help push the remaining material out in their stool. If further pain management is needed, this should be obtained through a vet.
Firelogs are typically comprised of sawdust and wax.
With the exception of the java logs (which contain coffee and caffeine), the majority of firelog ingestions are fairly harmless. There are not very many ingredients in your typical firelog, as they usually kindle fires through the use of sawdust, rather than through the use of fuel.
Smaller ingestions may not cause any signs at all, though vomiting and diarrhea are among the most common if they do occur. Similar to fertilizers, if a large amount is ingested, there is a risk of an obstruction developing from material or packaging that has difficulty passing through the GI tract.
Inducing vomiting may or may not be necessary in these cases. Smaller amounts of firelog may be easily pushed through to the stools by use of plain canned pumpkin without spices or plain wheat bread. If continued vomiting, difficulty pooping, abdominal pain, or lack of appetite occurs during the 24-48 hours after eating a firelog, these are the signs we tend to see in relation with obstruction, and should be evaluated by a vet.
As with any exposure, you should contact a local vet or animal poison control center to have the ingredients evaluated to determine if there is anything present that is different from the normal. In many cases, they can walk an owner through managing these exposures at home, but it is better to ensure that there are no additives that might pose a greater risk.