Cocoa mulch and dogs

Many dog owners are concerned about the safety of cocoa mulch around their pets.

Cocoa mulch is a by-product of cocoa production. The dark brown mulch is aesthetically and aromatically pleasing, giving the garden a rich, chocolatey scent. Since theobromine, a naturally occurring compound in chocolate, is toxic to dogs, many dog owners are concerned about the safety of cocoa mulch around their pets.

According to an article published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVM June 1, 2006 p. 1644), cocoa bean husks can contain up to 2.98 percent theobromine. The JAVM article states that “no reports of lethal toxicosis from ingesting this mulch have been filed with the ASPCA Poison Control Center this year (2006). In 2004 and 2005, 16 reports of single exposure to the mulch were received, none resulting in death.”

The ASPCA posts this comment regarding cocoa mulch on its website:
“Dogs consuming enough cocoa bean shell mulch could potentially develop signs similar to that of chocolate poisoning, including vomiting and diarrhea. In cases where very large amounts of mulch have been consumed, muscle tremors and other, more serious neurological signs could occur. To date, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has not received any cases involving animal deaths due to cocoa mulch ingestion. One key point to remember is that some dogs, particularly those with indiscriminate eating habits, can be attracted to any organic matter. Therefore, if you have a dog with such eating habits, it is important you do not leave him unsupervised or allow him into areas where such materials are being used.”

It should be noted that processed cocoa mulch may contain much lower concentrations, and some manufacturers market cocoa mulch that is pet safe. Consumers should look for products that are tested and certified theobromine free.

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