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Can Potting Soil Affect Dogs? Because of What it Contains

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Potting soil can come in many combinations of organic and some inorganic materials to promote plant growth. These mixtures are not compatible with dogs and their playful and inquisitive nature may lead to trouble if the potting soil is eaten.

It is best to discourage dogs from eating potting soil. Potting soil is specially formulated soil which contains ingredients made for plants with specific needs when grown in pots or containers. The constituents of potting soil are dangerous to dogs and cause a variety of ailments when ingested.

Soil and other organics used in the decomposition process to make potting soil may contain viruses and many types of bacteria which may get into pets when ingested if the process of decomposition was not done properly. 

These bacteria die above temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The effects of eating potted soil will vary with different dogs, their size and maturity. 

Some dogs may start to see signs of ingestion a few minutes after the potting soil is eaten which may last a couple hours and other dogs may see signs some time after it is eaten and the effects may last for up to three days. 

Potting soil and dogs infographic

How can the Type of Potted Soil Affect dogs Differently?

The type of potting soil time it takes for the dog to pass the effects depends on the type of potting soil and the ingredients it contains.

Potting soils differ by the ingredients they contain and their formulation to suit the needs for specific plants. It is best to understand the type of potting soil you have when it comes to the health of your plants coupled with having pets close by.

Here are some types of potting soil and their uses –

Types of Potting SoilUses
All purpose Potting soilBest for most Indoor and outdoor Plants
Seed starting MixProvides the ideal conditions for germinating.
Cacti and succulent MixProvides good drainage required for cacti and succulent growth
Orchid MixProvides good air Circulation and ensures that it’s well drained.
Peat Free Potting soilUsed because by environmentally conscious gardeners since peat is a non renewable resource 
Organic Potting SoilMade from natural, plant, and animal-based materials, such as worm castings, food compost, manure, bones, and humus.
Non- Organic Potting soilContains mixtures that are not typical of normal soil.
Types of potting soil and Uses

Non organic potting soil which is also a soilless potting mixture that incorporates the combination of peat moss, tree bark, vermiculture, perlite, limestone and sand.. These help moisture retention within the soil and promotes a slow release of nutrients to the plants they are surrounding.

Reasons why Dogs may Like to Eat Potted Soil

Reason why dogs may be attracted to Potting soil include –

  • They like the taste
  • They are looking for probiotic nutrients that they aren’t getting in their diet
  • Have some other type of inflammatory disease
  • The scent?
  • The dog may be hungry and simply looking for a source of food.

There are some types of mulches when applied to top soil that can also affect dogs when eaten. One such type is cocoa treated mulch.

Cocoa Treated Mulches will attract dogs because of their chocolatey smell but are in no way beneficial to dogs since they contain both caffeine and theobromine. 

Theobromine primarily affects the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system, as well as having a diuretic effect. The first signs of poisoning in dogs include vomiting, haematemesis, and polydipsia. Source.

Dogs tend to eat grass and other plants to aid in digestion of their food and in doing so will come into contact with mulches and potting soil which may even be more enticing to them than the plants or grass.

You can also see our detailed article on why dogs like plants where we give an in-depth account creating an environment safe for both dogs and plants.

What if the Potted Soil Contains Bone or Blood Meal?

Dogs are attracted to the scent of bone meal which seems as a legit source of food and when ingested may cause gastrointestinal problems which includes diarrhea and vomiting.

The dog’s response to the bone meal has to do with the additives in the meal and also the potted soil mixture that the bone meal was in.

Bone meal is used to treat soil which is low in nutrients such as phosphorus and calcium. Plants that display calcium and phosphorus deficiencies have trouble with growth and have stunted leaf and root development.

Phosphorus and Calcium is necessary for plants to

  • Stimulate root Growth
  • Stimulate leaf Growth
  • Stimulate plant Growth and maturity
  • Produce fruit
  • Boost health of flowering plants

Bone Meal is mainly made from the bones of cattles crushed into a fine pulp and in some cases it may also contain some small bone finds as well. When ingested in large amounts the dry mixture can lead to choking. This may occur if the dog eats the bone meal straight out of the bag or if it wasn?t properly mixed in with the potting soil.

The bone and blood meals in organic fertilizers are more problematic than the inorganic fertilizers because they have more of a propensity to cause iron poisoning and pancreatitis. Source

One of the top ten emergency calls the ASPCA has is with pets consuming fertilizers and other garden products.

Other types of animal related fertilizer products may include fish meal and blood meal and as their name suggest are made with the bones of fishes and also from blood derived from farming animals which is dried and processed into a power form.

The fish meal however, may contain shards of fish bone and these can easily get logged into the dog?s throat causing irritation and vomiting.

Whatever type of animal derived fertilizer, it will have an enticing aroma that will attract dogs. The result is that the dogs may ingest the fertilizer and then display signs of a negative reaction since it was not formulated for animals.

How Eating Potted soil Can affect dogs

The effect the potted soil can have on a dog will be different depending on the potting soil and the quantity ingested.

Through thorough research, these are the general symptoms which accompanies ingestion of potting soil by dogs –

  • Gastrointestinal irritation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Weakness
  • Seizures 
  • Death

These reactions are simply the dog?s way of removing and detoxifying itself. However symptoms such as the one listed above should not be taken lightly and you should seek the attention of a vet as soon as possible.

Can Other Planting Soil Affect Dogs if Eaten?

Soil treated with fertilizer and plant nutrients also affect dogs. Additionally, if the soil contains added substrates such as pebbles or rocks may be a problem if ingested.

Usually it is recommended that plants be potted with a potting soil mixture simply because the potting soil will contain all the required nutrients required for the plants to grow healthy within its confined space. 

Whenever other types of soil is used for potting plants such as soil found in the garden, additional nutrients are usually added to help plant growth. Usually fertilizers with a 20-20-20 ratio of NPK fertilizer may be added for general plants and other special ratios for specific plants such as orchids and flowering plants.

Additionally, in some instances, insecticides may be used to control pests from attacking the plants. These insecticides eventually end up in the soil and if ingested will lead to intestinal problems in dogs.

If you have to use pesticides, you should use one of an organic nature such as neem oil. Neem oil can help with fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites and mange mites in dogs and is therefore recommended for plants that are situated close to pets.

Can Insects in Potting Soil Affect Dogs?

Potting Soil and Soil from potted plants may contain insects which produce chemicals as a defense mechanism to danger. If the dog has ingested the soil containing such insects, the chemicals secreted by the insects may cause the dog to vomit or have digestive problems which may lead to diarrhea 

The moist conditions of potted soil may attract unwanted insects and animals such as frogs. They tend to seek its cool shady environment under the plant which acts like an oasis away from the scorching sun. 

With that said here?s my story with potted soil and my dog.

My dog once bit a toad that was sleeping in a plant pot with potting soil. She?s a small dog and very playful. Just a small bit and my dog immediately started to gasp and vomit and also had instant diarrhea. 

After a costly visit to the vet, a bag of fluid drip and a shot of antibiotics my dog started to feel better. The symptoms were completely gone after 12 hours biting the toad which was peacefully lying in the potted soil.

The Takeaway 

You should consider purchasing a nontoxic blend of mulch or potting soil which incorporates more organic ingredients which will not have a great impact on your dog if they eat it.

When having pets around your garden or planting area you should always actively supervise them, ensuring that they don?t get themselves into trouble.

Additionally, you can provide a mechanical means of prevention by installing wire cages or pet barriers around plants that contain potting soil or mulch that can cause harm to your pets.

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