Cocoa Mulch Warning

Now that gardening season is approaching, dog owners should be aware that a commonly sold gardening product poses a serious health risk to our beloved pets. The product is called Cocoa Mulch and it is sold in many gardening centers such as Home Depot and Forman’s Garden Supply, and is available on internet gardening web sites as well.

Cocoa Mulch is made from the spent shells of chocolate production. Cocoa beans, as well as the shells contain the stimulants caffeine, and theobromine. Dogs are highly sensitive to these chemicals, called Methylxanthines. Depending on the amount a dog consumes the results can range from gastrointestinal upset, to rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures, and even death. According to some warnings on the internet several dogs died last year, although only one that we know of has been verified. In that case the dog died within 17 hours of eating Cocoa Mulch. There have been many cases of non-lethal poisoning from this product reported by veterinarians.

Dogs are very attracted to the product because it smells like chocolate. Unfortunately it has even higher concentrations of the chemicals toxic to dogs than milk chocolate, which is known to be toxic to dogs in large quantities. The paragraph below from the ASPCA web site compares the differences between the two.

“Eaten by a 50-pound dog, about 2 ounces of cocoa bean mulch may cause gastrointestinal upset; about 4.5 ounces, increased heart rate; about 5.3 ounces, seizures; and over 9 ounces, death. (In contrast, a 50-pound dog can eat up to about 7.5 ounces of milk chocolate without gastrointestinal upset and up to about a pound of milk chocolate without increased heart rate.)”

The ASPCA recommends that if you suspect your dog has eaten cocoa bean mulch, you immediately contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435). Treatment will depend on how much your dog has eaten, when it was eaten, and whether your dog is sick. Recommended care may include placing your dog under veterinary observation, inducing vomiting, and/or controlling a rapid heartbeat or seizures.

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