Pet-Friendly Lawn Fertilizer: What to Look For

dog lying in grass while guarding the front yard

No one would want to sacrifice their pet’s health just to have a beautiful lawn. But with the help of a pet-friendly lawn fertilizer, you can get the best of both worlds. While organic fertilizers contain little to no chemicals, you should check first if they are truly safe for your pet.

Find out what you need to look for in a fertilizer to ensure it won’t cause any harm to your furbaby. This way, you can have a healthy pet and a healthy lawn at the same time.

What makes a lawn fertilizer pet-friendly?

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Most lawn care professionals agree that natural or organic products are the best options. Still, that doesn’t mean these products are all completely safe. You still need to check the package label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Primary qualities to look for in a fertilizer

Pet-friendly fertilizers can be just as effective as traditional fertilizers when it comes to helping your grass grow. But what makes them safe for pets?

For any fertilizer to be considered pet-safe, it must have these primary qualities:

  • Quick drying
  • Fast absorption
  • Contains little to no harmful chemicals

However, even a quick-drying and fast-absorbing fertilizer needs some time to sink into the soil. After applying the fertilizer, you should wait at least a day for it to get fully absorbed before allowing your pets to explore your lawn.

Responsible application of fertilizers

Whether you’re applying fertilizer in late fall, early spring, or late summer, you can’t just spread it on your lawn any way you want. Regardless of the type of fertilizer, you must apply these rules when fertilizing your lawn:

  1. Read the product label before anything else. It will tell you vital information, such as when and how to apply, the ideal equipment to use, and when it is safe to step on the treated area again.
  2. Water the lawn after application to give the fertilizer a light soak, aiding in faster absorption. If you apply it before a light rain, you can enjoy nature’s own way of watering and soaking.
  3. Allow some time for the treated area to dry up. Some usually leave it overnight, but if you want to be certain, you can leave it for at least 24 hours.

According to Adrian Card, extension state specialist at the Colorado State University Extension, “An organic fertilizer refers to a product derived from natural sources that contains at least one essential available plant nutrient. Examples include plant and animal by-products, rock powders, and seaweed.”

By-products, such as blood meal, fish emulsion, and bone meal, have a scent that can be very appealing to dogs and cats. This is all the more reason to keep your pets off the lawn for at least a day or as specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. Or better yet, prevent them from playing in the yard for a few more days. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

If you fertilize your lawn responsibly, you’re not only protecting the health of your turf but the health of your pets as well.

Types of pet-friendly lawn fertilizers

wheelbarrow full of grass clippings
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When choosing between organic and inorganic fertilizers, it’s better to go for organic because they contain fewer chemicals and are not as harmful. If your pet ingests a handful of granules or licks a few drops of liquid organic fertilizer, the effects can be less dangerous and fatal than synthetic versions.

Here are some types of organic lawn fertilizers that are safe for pets:

Fish emulsion

A quick-release fertilizer, fish emulsion can burn plants if applied in large quantities. While this organic fertilizer is pet-friendly, your furbaby might get drawn to its appealing scent. So, it’s best to allow at least two days for the soil to absorb the fertilizer before letting your pet loose in the yard.

Grass clippings

If you want to cut down your use of nitrogen fertilizer, you can use grass clippings instead. These clippings also contain a good amount of potassium and phosphorus, which can help maintain your lawn’s healthy N-P-K ratio.

But the best thing about this organic fertilizer is that it’s totally safe for pets. Plus, you can get free grass clippings whenever you mow the lawn.


Another pet-safe fertilizer, seaweeds contain around 70 kinds of vitamins and minerals that effectively stimulate grass growth. While you can buy them in either ground or liquid form, most prefer to use the liquid version so the nutrients can be easily sprayed through the leaves.


Compost is a great fertilizer, especially for gardens. It’s cost-effective since you can make your own compost, but be mindful of what you put into it to avoid increasing its toxicity to your pets. Some food products that can be toxic to them include onion, garlic, and grape waste.

You can use pet-safe compost bins to ensure your pets won’t be able to access the compost.


Here’s an alternative to compost that is not as hard to make. It can be time-consuming, though, as you’ll need to allow composting for three to four months. Also, you’ll want to eliminate the smell of manure. Otherwise, your curious dog might try to eat this manure fertilizer.

Other types of organic fertilizer

Any kind of organic fertilizer may pass as pet-friendly. But if you want to double down on safety, go for those that are EPA-certified.

If you want to use the most popular all-in-one option, a lot of homeowners swear by Milorganite. In case your dog accidentally ingests this fertilizer, reactions can vary from vomiting to passing dark stool or, in some cases, exhibiting no symptoms at all.

Symptoms of fertilizer poisoning for pets

Elisabeth J. Giedt, a doctor of veterinary medicine at OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, recommends keeping pets away from commercially treated lawns until the chemicals have completely dried. So, remember to check the product label for specific instructions on application rates and safe re-entry periods for pets after lawn fertilization.

Your pet doesn’t actually have to dig its way to the fertilizers in the soil to ingest them. The residue can stick to their fur and paws, leading to accidental consumption.

If your pet has been exposed to toxic lawn fertilizer, you should check if they have the following common symptoms of fertilizer poisoning:

  • Nausea
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gums with a “muddy” color

Don’t make second guesses if you observe signs of fertilizer poisoning in your pet. Contact your veterinarian right away. The faster your pet gets medical attention, the less likely the toxins will propagate. Also, remember to bring a photo of the fertilizer’s ingredients for easy reference.

How to maintain a healthy and pet-friendly lawn

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Keeping your lawn healthy and vibrant while ensuring it’s safe for your pets can be done by doing regular lawn care maintenance. Here are some natural ways to help you achieve this:

  • Mulching: Grass clippings, wood chips, and shredded leaves can help you create an organic mulch. Not only does mulching help enhance soil fertility and prevent weeds, but it also helps reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Natural weed control: If mulching is not enough to prevent weeds in your lawn, avoid using weed-killing products. A great alternative solution is to use a lawn mower to trim your lawn and discourage weed growth.
  • Composting: Instead of applying synthetic fertilizers, try composting by combining would-be wastes like kitchen scraps and plant trimmings. Remember to keep the compost inaccessible to your pets.

Whether you need your lawn to be pet-friendly or not, the same rules apply when fertilizing it. If you want your lawn to be vibrant and lush and stay that way for a long time, you must know the proper timing when applying fertilizers.

While these are just a few alternative things you can start doing for your lawn to make it pet-friendly, they can still be daunting and time-consuming. So, if you don’t want to stress over your lawn and your pet, you can always get a lawn care company to do the fertilization services on your behalf.

FAQ about pet-friendly lawn fertilizers

Are homemade lawn fertilizers safe for pets?

Homemade fertilizer can be safe for pets if you use non-toxic ingredients. If you add a lot of onion and garlic to your compost, it becomes toxic to your dog when ingested.

But regardless of the type of fertilizer used, remember to allow at least 24 hours for the fertilizer to dry up before allowing your pet access to the treated area.

What happens if my dog walks on newly fertilized grass?

Fertilizers can stick to your dog’s fur and paws while walking on newly fertilized grass, increasing the likelihood of fertilizer ingestion. However, if you allow some time for the fertilizer to get watered in and dry up, a dog walking on fertilized grass shouldn’t be cause for concern.

Is granular fertilizer safe for pets?

Similar to liquid fertilizers, granular fertilizers are safe for pets only if you allow them to dissolve completely into the soil. You will need to keep your pets off the lawn while the fertilizer is still being absorbed by the soil.

Keep your pets safe and your lawn healthy

You don’t need to compromise your pet’s safety to have a healthy lawn. Regardless of the type of fertilizer you use, it’s very important to always read the label before and after application and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you want to focus on the fun stuff, like playing with your dog on your lush and vibrant lawn, leave the challenging tasks of using a pet-friendly lawn fertilizer and maintaining your landscape to a reliable lawn care pro.

Main Photo Credit: Matt Deavenport | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Melanie Joseph

After discovering her passion for writing through her beauty blog, Melanie left her engineering job in California, became a writer, and never once looked back. When she isn't writing, she loves dipping in the pool, tending to the garden, or doing simple home improvement projects.