Most pet owners know that chocolate, grapes, and raisins are toxic to our canine friends. Other potentially toxic foods include avocados, garlic and onions. What most dog owners don’t realize, however, is that compost can be one of the most toxic and deadly substances around.
While composting your old food materials is a great way to decrease waste and turn “garbage” into a new and useful product, it is imperative that you compost your waste products appropriately. Dairy and meat products should never be composted and your compost bin should be fenced and tightly sealed in order to make sure pets and wildlife are unable to gain access to it.
Compost is especially dangerous as the decomposing organic matter can contain fungi which produce neurotoxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins. It is also important to note that tremorgenic mycotoxins can be present in garbage or other sources of moldy food- not just compost bins. The symptoms of acute compost toxicity usually occur 30 minutes-3 hours after initial ingestion. These symptoms can include agitation, hyperthermia (increased temperature), vomiting, panting, drooling, tremors and seizures. Consuming even a small amount of compost containing tremorgenic mycotoxins can be deadly, so early diagnosis and treatment are imperative. There is no cure for this particular poison and the early implementation of supportive care will give your dog the best chance at survival. This treatment can include the induction of vomiting, administration of activated charcoal to bind to whatever toxins are left in the system, IV fluids to flush toxins from the bloodstream, cold water or alcohol baths to decrease body temperature, and the administration of several IV medications to control spasms or seizures.
Although most dogs who are diagnosed with compost poisoning will recover within 24-48 hours with prompt treatment, some dogs will not. Tremors and seizures can last for several days and secondary complications such as clotting abnormalities and aspiration pneumonia may develop. These secondary complications are often fatal.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet it is imperative that you contact your veterinarian immediately, especially if they have been unsupervised or it is possible they have gotten into compost or garbage. Immediate diagnosis and treatment give your pet the best chance to make a full recovery.