Cocoa mulch has become a popular option for landscaping, gardens and flower beds, but a Kansas State University veterinarian
said the aromatic mulch isn't a good idea to have in your yard if you
have pets, especially a dog.
Cocoa mulch, made from the roasted shell of cocoa beans and sold in most home and garden stores, smells delicious to pets, but can be deadly, according to Dr. Susan Nelson, a Kansas State University veterinarian.
"Cocoa mulch poses the most threat to dogs because they are more
indiscriminate eaters than cats and tend to ingest larger quantities at
one time," Nelson said.
Cocoa mulch contains the chemical theobromine, which is the same
chemical that can make eating a chocolate bar toxic to dogs. Dogs are
intrigued by the sweet smell of the cocoa mulch, which is why it causes
so much trouble.
Cocoa mulch affects dogs in different ways, depending on the size of the
dog, the amount of theobromine in the mulch and how much the dog
ingests, Nelson said.
"If you have a 20-pound dog, mild signs could be seen with the ingestion
of a little less than an ounce of cocoa mulch," Nelson said. "More
severe signs could be seen with the ingestion of around one to one and
a half ounces, so it doesn't take very much."
Dogs that ingest larger amounts of cocoa mulch can experience vomiting,
diarrhea, an increased heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and
possibly death. Even a very small amount of ingested cocoa mulch can
cause dogs to have gastrointestinal complications.
"If your dog has an encounter with cocoa mulch, the best thing to do is
call your veterinarian as soon as possible because the dog will most
likely need medical attention," Nelson said.
The best way to prevent dogs from ingesting cocoa mulch is to use safer alternatives such as shredded hardwood or compost, Nelson said.