Is Cocoa Mulch really Toxic to Dogs?

by Martha Jette
(Hamilton, Ontario)

Toronto and Hamilton area dog rescue groups have received an email warning once again about the dangers of cocoa mulch to dogs. But is this garden mulch really a danger?

According to cocoa mulch, which is sold by Target, Home Depot, Foreman’s Garden Supply and other similar stores is made from cocoa bean shells that contain two ingredients found in chocolate: theobromine and caffeine. Because it smells like chocolate, pets are drawn to it.

Theobromine can affect an animal’s heart, central nervous system and kidneys. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), dogs are highly sensitive to this chemical and even a low dose (2 ounces) can cause gastrointestinal upset. In large doses, they can cause vomiting, diarrhea and/or abdominal pain, while high doses can lead to rapid heart rate (4.5 ounces), (5.3 ounces) muscle tremors, seizures and (over 9 ounces) death.

However, Snopes notes that even small dogs would have to eat a lot of cocoa mulch to become severely affected. According to a report published by the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association in 1984, a dog had died from ingesting a lethal quantity of garden mulch but new processing technologies leave a much lower chemical residue in the mulch. In fact, Home Depot claims their mulch is now safe for pets.

“The Home Depot does not and will not sell much harmful to pets,” said a company spokesperson. “The mulch sold by The Home Depot containing cocoa shells goes through several cleaning processes, including a high heat system in order to strip the cocoa fat from the shells without the use of any chemicals.”

Cocoa mulch is only one of the possible risks to dogs, with many people now preparing their summer gardens. Other hazards include tomato plants, green tomatoes, onions, grapes and rhubarb, mushrooms, potato skins and green potatoes.

Related Articles:

Cocoa Bean Mulch is Toxic to Dogs

Danger to dogs from cocoa bean mulch put into perspective

Pet Health Alert: Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Cocoa Mulch Toxicity in Dogs

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