Down the street from me my neighbors are getting their house ready for sale. They’ve had a landscaping crew there for weeks. Weeding, pruning, planting, and mulching. Their garden looks beautiful. Pastel flowers are set off by a striking dark brown mulch that smells heavenly – like chocolate.
And therein lies the danger. The mulch they’ve used is chocolate mulch or cocoa bean mulch. A gardening danger for pets. Potentially deadly. Most people know that chocolate – in any form – can sicken and even kill cats and dogs. But many people don’t realize that this beautiful cocoa mulch is even more toxic – and potentially lethal.
Because this mulch is made from the shells of the cocoa bean, it contains theobromine, a compound similar to caffeine. Cocoa contains one of the strongest concentrations of theobromine of any chocolate product and can have serious consequences if your pet eats it.
It doesn’t take much. Much less than if your pet eats a piece of chocolate. Just 2 oz of mulch ingested by a 50 pound dog can cause gastrointestinal upset – vomiting and diarrhea. A bit more can affect the heart, causing restlessness and an increased heart rate. Just slightly more can cause convulsions, tremors, seizures, and death within as little as 12 hours. The effects are more severe in small breeds.
Using cocoa bean mulch – or cocoa bean fertilizer – in your own garden if you have pets obviously isn’t worth the risk. Yet, as I learned, other people’s gardens pose a threat as well. Especially for dogs who walk the neighborhood. Fall is the time a lot of people re-mulch, so keep your eyes open.
My dog is a hound, and with her nose glued to the ground, she’s more prone to having things find their way into her mouth. But cocoa mulch doesn’t just smell good to us – it smells good to your pet as well. Chocolate – yum! It’s unfortunately, very appealing to most pets, and so poses a danger to all.
If your pet does get into cocoa bean mulch – don’t wait for signs of distress or illness. It may be too late. Even if you’re not aware of how much your pet ingested, the safest course of action is an immediate trip to the vet.
Check out the ASPCA link under our Helpful Pet Resources section for a list of other substances harmful to your pet and click here for safe yard and home products.