Doggos,  Motherhood

Always (Ask to) Read the Label

Organic, simply defined, means made from naturally occurring ingredients.

Organic does NOT equate to non-toxic. If you harbor any doubts about this, consider this: some wild mushrooms, toads and raisins are all “organic”, but they are very poisonous to dogs. Honey is organic, but can be potentially harmful to babies under a year old.

When you are going to try a product for the first time, it is highly likely that you are going to check out the label before purchasing it – even it the claim is organic – to make sure.  It stands to reason that, should someone claims that a product being used around children or pets is organic, even if  (or despite that) they tell you it is “safe”, it’s a good idea to ask to read the label yourself.

Now –  consider the chance that this someone doesn’t fully understand the difference –  or worse yet, is mistaken, and the product is neither organic – nor non-toxic.

We were reminded of this recently in a terrible way.

Last week, our pest control company (who I will not name, but is will soon be Terminated) came for its quarterly visit. Now, we’ve had the same technician for a while, and he is a really nice guy and a dog lover, and has been careful to point out the applications he makes in areas where we live are organic and safe for the kids – something that is important to me. The safety part – while the organic aspect is nice,  I’m not as concerned about that as much as for the safety of my kids and dog.

After treating the inside of my house with an organic “perfectly safe” product, he needed to treat the outside for carpenter ants.  We’ve had a bad problem with carpenter ants in the past, and after discovering  the extent of their damage when we had replaced our sliding glass door (and had to rebuild the frame), I was all for treating the outside of the house again – the last time, they sprayed something on the wood.  I was outside as the technician came from his truck with a white can in hand. He began to sprinkle it on the ground – whoa!  I stopped him, asking “Is it safe for my dog?”  He said, “Yes, it is organic!”

I questioned him again: “Yes, but is it actually safe for pets?”  He replied, again, yes it was. Confident in his answer, as this IS his job and he knows his product, I went inside, but later saw the dog nosing in the mulch alongside the house.

That night, my husband first noticed that she was suffering from diarrhea.  By the morning, she was throwing up her food, and her poo was more along the lines of what we refer to as “number three”.  It was bad. She looked weak and lay panting on her bed, and I booked her into the veterinarian.

As we had an hour before he could see her, I pulled up the email sent by the company that detailed the job done the prior day.

My jaw dropped in horror as I saw the name of the product.

It wasn’t organic at all. In fact, it was the opposite, and quite toxic! As horrifying as the warning “This product is toxic to pets” was the one that read “This product may be attractive to pets.”

So while my technician thought his product was organic and safe – it was neither. Worse yet, it smelled yummy.

The vet administered an IV for her dehydration, adding in an anti-emetic to help her keep in the fluids. I got an earful from an angry vet along the lines of “Organic does not mean safe” despite telling him that I know  this, that I asked specifically if it was safe.  To be fair, the only way we could verify 100% accurately that this was the work of the pesticide was to do a tissue sample, but as he had recently seen Macy he knew that this was not normal for a healthy, active young dog, and as a pesticide warning of these same symptoms (and worse – including leg tremors and coma) had been applied within twelve hours of the start of symptoms, he was “pretty dang confident” that they were responsible. (The pest control company conceded this point to me, or at least they knew not to push.)

He sent me home with antibiotics and some medication for diarrhea. Unfortunately, we had to wait until she had eaten something – to make sure that she could hold something down – and he didn’t want us to feed her for another twelve hours, at which time we would be allowed to give her some white bread and rice.  All I was allowed to give her in the meantime was ice chips, and we had to do that by hand, too – she was too weak to drink.


I have a spaniel who can set a clock by her stomach –  she has never missed a meal.   We were also told to keep her quiet – another tough task for a spaniel owner,  but she was so poorly that she didn’t move off her bed other than to curl up by my legs on the sofa, where I could hear the gurgling of the ice chips in her tummy. Her back legs were shaking and she was very unsteady as she walked up to me, and so I ended up sleeping on the sofa with her, out of guilt and worry (and fear she would throw up all over my living room.) She spent the next few days quiet and weak, recovering slowly on a diet of white rice and scrambled eggs.


I felt great responsibility for trusting blindly in the knowledge of the technician, who clearly was either misinformed or flat out confused about his products.

They company told us it would take about thirty days for the product to fully dissipate from the mulch, so we walked her in the front yard on a lead for the first 48 hours after she started her medication, and for the next few days after that we didn’t leave her alone in the yard, shooing her away when she walked too close to the mulch. She’s  staying out of the beds next to the house where the product was spread – she is a smart little doggie.

Thankfully, she is back to her old self.


Never again will I let anything be applied to our property when I haven’t read the warning label on the can myself.  That may make me a helicopter mom, but I don’t care.

This may have ended up being more of a story of reading labels versus confusion over organic and safe (since in the end, the product wasn’t even organic) but won’t put any of us in this situation again.



  • Gmom Phyl

    Very scary, Jenn. The techs don’t usually know what chemicals they are using, and whether they are toxic to animals. To see her shaking, not able to stand, etc was so frightening. Glad she got in to the vet right away, and he knew what it was and what to do.
    Sparks has had a reaction to Vectra, the flea and tick topical that is favored. He was successfully taking Advantix II, but showed a reaction last month. That reaction is restlessness, itching, not sleeping, running around. We are treating with Benadryl before and during, and it worked this month. We await a new product, by mouth, that is not supposed to have these side effects. Isn’t it interesting that products created for dogs can cause a reaction in some dogs, at some times?

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