Compost is an accumulation of decomposing food scraps, plants and other nutrient-rich organic matter. It’s not very well known that compost can be highly toxic to pets but unfortunately, that’s just the case. In this blog we explore the risks of compost poisoning, the symptoms and how to compost safely around pets.
Why is compost toxic to our pets?
Some animals, especially dogs, are attracted to the scent of compost and may want to investigate it further. And how do our pets investigate new things? That’s right - by smelling, touching and tasting them.
As compost decomposes it can grow dangerous mold spores and bacteria. Mold spores have the potential to produce mycotoxins, which are powerful toxins that affect muscle coordination. As some of the food items in the compost decays it can also grow toxic bacteria that can cause serious illness for all animals.
In most cases pets will need to eat the compost to become ill. But in some cases, all they need to become sick is to stick their nose or paws in the compost to pick up a few mold spores or bacteria which can easily make it’s way into their system and cause serious illness.
What should we do if our pets get their paws on compost?
Monitor them for symptoms and call your local vet ASAP. It can be good to take a picture of the contents of the compost bin to give the vet a good idea of what toxins they may be dealing with.
If you know your pet has eaten compost call your local vet immediately, don’t wait for symptoms to show as they will have already fallen ill by that point and treatment will be required. If caught early your vet may be able to induce vomiting to bring up the compost from their stomach, potentially stopping the illness from setting in.
Common symptoms of compost poisoning include:
- Hyperthermia (high temperature)
- Hypersensitivity (high sensitivity)
- Foaming at the mouth
Depending on the toxin that has been consumed, the symptoms may develop into neurological symptoms such as:
How can we compost safely?
- Ensure no dairy or animal products are placed in the compost bin- when these decay they can grow dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella and Bacillus that can cause serious gastro-intestinal illness.
- Place outside compost bins in an area that’s inaccessible to your pets or erect a small fence around the zone to stop them from getting to it. It may seem like a bit of a hassle to build a new fence- but it will be well worth the effort compared to the risk that compost can pose to our pets.
- Avoid adding animal droppings to the compost as these will have a high level of associated bacteria.
- Avoid adding used coffee grounds to the compost as caffeine is also highly toxic to pets, this paired with the dangers of the compost would be a high level risk if our pets managed to get into it.
- Ensure inside and outside compost bins have a sealable, air tight lid. Keep the lid closed at all times.
- Wear gloves and a face mask when handling compost, ensure no compost dust is breathed in by either yourself or your pets as this will increase the risk of fungal and bacterial infections for each of you.
- Place indoor compost bins out of reach of pets. A small bin on top of a bench would be safer than on the ground next to the general rubbish bin.
If you think your pet has gotten their paws on your compost, please call us ASAP on 4951 4222.