Dr. Julie Damron

2 minutes reading time (345 words)

Cocoa bean mulch can be harmful to both dogs and cats

Be aware that what you or your gardeners use on your lawn can be toxic to your pets.

Cocoa mulch, made from cocoa bean shells, is known for its fine texture and sweet aroma.  Unfortunately it can contain the same harmful ingredients as chocolate:  theobromine and caffeine.  Both of these chemicals can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, seizures, muscle tremors, hyperactivity, and even death.

Cocoa mulch is actually more toxic than milk chocolate, with much smaller amounts causing problems.  The mulch can contain from 300 mg to 1200 mg of theobromine per oz.  At the higher levels, this is a stronger concentration that any other chocolate product.  Milk chocolate normally contains 44-66 mg of theobromine per oz, and unsweetened baking chocolate has 450 mg of theobromine per oz.

According to the ASPCA, if a 50 lb dog consumes 2 oz of cocoa mulch, intestinal upset will occur.  It takes about 4.5 oz to increase his/her heart rate, and 5.3 oz to trigger seizures.  Death can occur with consumption of over 9 oz.  In contrast, a 50 lb dog can consume 7.5 oz of milk chocolate before symptoms occur, and must eat about a 1lb to increase his/her heart rate.

If you suspect your pet has ingested cocoa bean mulch, contact your veterinarian immediately.  The level of treatment required will depend upon your pet's size, when the ingestion occurred, and the quantity of mulch consumed.  Your dog or cat may have vomiting induced, may be given medications for a rapid heart rate, or may be hospitalized on intravenous fluids.

Some cocoa products have taken steps to remove the cocoa fat from the shells using heat.  I still don't think it's the best idea to use a sweet smelling product, that may attract animals to your lawn.

Even if you are not a pet owner, I recommend great caution to make sure items are pet friendly when using any chemicals in your garden.  Most neighborhoods have cats that don't stay on their own front porch, and even the most obedient dog will escape on occasion.

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Saturday, 15 December 2018