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Is Compost Bad for Pets to Eat?


December 2, 2022

Someone posted this on Nextdoor.  I was wondering what you all think about this.  What would you say in response??  Thanks, WR.  Post on Nextdoor:  Hi everyone. If you are composting in an effort to decrease methane emissions into the atmosphere or improving ur soil etc; I wanted to warn you that compost can be dangerous or fatal if consumed by ur pets!  I found out the hard way while puppy sitting a neighbors pup. He decided to eat some compost for some reason?  Several hours later he began violently shaking with horrible tremors and lost bowel control… when I arrived at VCA they were the ones to ask if we composted! I was shocked and said,” how did you know!”  Apparently it’s pretty common. Microbes in the food create mycotoxins that cause them to loose neurological control of their muscles. Depending on how much they consume and how quickly u catch it they can progress to seizures and death. Even after getting him to the vet on time they weren’t sure if he’d make it! Fortunately he did unfortunately it cost me over 3000.00!  So be sure to keep it away from ur puppy’s , kids, etc!


Answer by JZ:  My beagle had a similar experience 3 years ago.  With treatment she survived.

My tower bins are now fenced in so she cannot get to them. I’d say that this was a useful post.

Answer by JH: Perhaps VCA is right or perhaps the poster didn’t present VCA’s findings entirely accurately. Puppies also eat balls and blankets often requiring surgical intervention so the silly little things need to be supervised. My chickens always helped me turn the compost and they never got sick - they also ate black widow spiders without incident. Maybe birds are hardier than puppies. Perhaps we should first reach out to VCA and verify their position. Then it would be interesting to know what and how the poster was composting. Was puppy noshing on the contents of a bokashi bucket or worm bin? Without knowing precisely a response would have to include a list of acceptable and non-acceptable items for outdoor composting as well as list other methods that have different requirements.

Answer by JH: Oh disregard my reply - I am just now seeing John’s. We learn something new everyday!

Answer by JH: Of course I got JZ's email after sending mine. Here is one of many webpages about this problem. Maybe simply posting the link is appropriate.

Answer by MR: And of course I just read all these threads after coming in from finishing off the last layers of a hot compost pile, which is indeed heating up despite being assembled in the wrong season (thank the compost angels for an ample supply of chicken poop). I tend to agree with both of JH's responses. My first concern is that most people will have only a vague idea of what "compost" actually is, so they won't be able to distinguish between the finished process and the various components of an unfinished pile of various feedstock materials. My deepest concern is that the paranoid elements in the human community will want to outlaw compost altogether, or at least send out compost police to protect every dimwit dog from eating something dangerous. I'm only exaggerating slightly.

My direct response to anyone asking the question would be to make sure Fido can't get into the compost because of course there are things in there that are not good for mammals to eat. Let the worms and chickens get into it if you'd like, otherwise leave it for the microbes, bacteria, and fungi to sort it out, because they will. And then we can use it safely also. By analogy, humanure is completely safe when it is treated appropriately and "finished" before incorporation into garden soils (just ask the millions of people in Scandinavia and northern Europe who have been using composting toilets for decades), but it's not at all safe during the composting process. A little common sense goes a long way.

Answer by  PB: Dogs eat strange things.  I am sure we all have stories.

Answer by AB:  I got the email thread - I hadn’t heard about compost killing pets - I do think they would dig through and eat things they shouldn’t eat, important to keep compost covered or in bins or fenced off if in a pile in a yard.

Answer by AB: I am researching toxicity of compost for pets - the Pet poison helpline is a good resource:

Another article on mycotoxicosis that can occur with ingestion of compost or moldy foods - can be more of a problem than I realized:

Answer by RR:  Attached is an article from the latest Mother Earth News magazine (January 2023) about compost toxicity in dogs. Since we recently had a discussion about this, it seemed pertinent:

Answer by AB: I may have sent this before - the pet poison helpline website is a good resource for pet toxins:

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