If you fertilize your lawn, you are probably worried about your dogs traipsing through the grass afterward and then licking their paws. Many pet owners have this concern, and rightly so. Most commercial lawn fertilizers contain ingredients that can be toxic to dogs or cause allergic reactions.
Most fertilizers are a combination of ingredients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, most popular fertilizers are manufactured using synthetic chemicals to accelerate grass growth or kill weeds. Glyphosate and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (look for “2,4-D” on the packaging), bifenthrin, and imidacloprid, among others, can be harmful to pets and kids if ingested or due to prolonged skin contact. These chemicals can also harm wildlife and contaminate groundwater.
But a new generation of lawncare companies is making it easier to find pet-friendly fertilizers. Learn what to look for to make safe, healthy buying decisions.
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What Makes a Lawn Fertilizer Dog Friendly?
Natural or organic products are top choices for dog-friendly lawn fertilizers. They also are environmentally responsible and provide the basic nutrients for successful organic lawn care. Look for “organic” or “natural” labels. For added confidence, seek out the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) label. This independent company reviews products and determines if the ingredients are organic.
Just because a product is organic or natural doesn’t mean there aren’t things to watch out for. As with any lawn and garden product, always read and follow the label directions.
We scoured the internet for reliable resources, such as scientific reports and product testing organizations that specialize in dog safety. And keeping an eye on the budget, the following options cost between $20 to $55 to treat an average-sized lawn.
Espoma’s products are safe for dogs, kids, and the environment, and like many organic or natural lawn products, they are slow-release fertilizers. A granular all-season fertilizer, Espoma’s Organic All Season Lawn Food is readily available at garden centers, home improvement stores, and online. It’s also available in formulas specifically for spring and fall applications. While this may be the most expensive lawn fertilizer on the market, it’s also one of the best. A 28-pound bag covers 5,000 square feet.
Responsible manufacturing practices are another reason Espoma is a good choice. Its products are manufactured in a solar-powered factory in New Jersey, helping to reduce the embodied carbon footprint of your yard care.
Turf Nurture offers a slow-release formula that breaks down over time rather than delivering a flush of growth all at once. When nutrients break down slowly in the soil, lawns will survive better during drought, heat, and cold.
Labeled safe for pets and children when used as directed, a $19.99 8-pound bag of Turf Nurture covers 2,500 square feet.
Earth Works for Home’s dog-friendly formula focuses on soil health as well as fertilization using organic ingredients. Safe for pets and children, Replenish Your Lawn comes as a ready-to-use spray or granular product that can be applied anywhere in the landscape, including garden beds.
This company has a helpful tool that allows you to enter your location to get a Google image of your property that estimates the square footage that needs to be fertilized. This reduces the chance you’ll be left with extra, unused fertilizer. A 25-pound bag of granular covers 5,000 square feet, and the 32-ounce ready-to-use liquid covers 5,000 square feet.
Scotts is a well-known brand for synthetic lawn and garden products, such as Miracle-Gro, but its Natural Lawn Food is OMRI-listed and safe for kids and pets. The company also claims it is safe to walk on a treated lawn immediately after application. A 29.5-pound bag covers 4,000 square feet.
Fairly new to the market, Sunday lawn fertilizer comes in a pouch of ready-to-use liquid spray that attaches to a hose. Labeled as safe for pets and kids, Sunday stands apart because it comes with a soil test that assesses your lawn health. You collect some soil and mail it using a pre-paid mailing label to Sunday’s lab for analysis. They will return suggestions about the best Sunday product for your lawn and how to use it.
Sunday is usually sold as two pouches. A 42.3-ounce pouch covers 5,000 square
Dog-Safe Lawn Fertilizing
If you fertilize your lawn, using a natural, dog-friendly fertilizer is the best bet for keeping your dog safe. In addition, heed these dog-safety lawn treatment tips from the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC).
- Keep dogs and other pets out of the area you are treating with fertilizer.
- Remove any pet toys or other items your dog may come in contact with — such as food and water bowls or bedding — from the area you are treating.
- Read the product label to know when pets may safely re-enter the treated area.
- If you are uncertain about the product you want to use, call the NPIC at 800-858-7378.
While natural fertilizers that are safe for dogs are also safer for the planet, they can cause problems if not applied judiciously. To reduce the environmental risks of fertilizing, never apply more than the recommended amount of fertilizer, only apply it only when necessary, and follow other guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency.
About the Author
Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp is an award-winning garden writer, editor, and speaker. She has had 9 dogs in her life (so far). She blogs at hoosiergardener.com.