Compost Can Kill Dogs. Here's How to Save Them.

A woman carries compost to dump as a dog watches.

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This awesome infographic on which composting method is right for you proved a big hit, and videos on DIY compost tumblers and how to build a worm bin continue to generate thousands of views. The fact is that there are millions of enthusiastic composters out there, and millions more who just need a gentle push. So I am hoping this post does not put anyone off—but if you have pets or young children, you may want to take precautions to ensure their safety.

On very rare occasions, a poorly managed compost heap can kill. The Ottawa Citizen has a Q&A; on a letter from reader on the risk of poisoning to pets caused by compost. The prime moral of the story is not, of course, whether or not to compost—but rather how to do it right:

Compost can be a source of dangerous pathogens, which can seriously harm or kill pets. Compost should not contain any dairy or food products (such as breads and meats), which can become mouldy. Mouldy foods can potentially contain tremorgenic mycotoxins (i.e. poisons from mould that can cause neurological symptoms such as tremors or seizures). More than 20 mycotoxins in compost have been identified as harmful and these mycotoxins can be neurotoxic (i.e. poisonous to the nervous system) to humans, pets and wildlife. Even small amounts can be toxic within a few hours of ingestion and can be fatal.

Besides avoiding composting certain foods, other commonsense measure include keeping a heap covered or using a closed container, and keeping your dog or other pets out of the pile.

Stay safe. Keep composting. Spread the word.