Cocoa mulch can be deadly to dogs


E-mail raises awareness of landscaping dangers.

Every year about this time, an e-mail starts making its way around the Web. The latest version tells the tragic story of Moose, a 3-year-old Labrador that died after ingesting cocoa mulch that his owners spread on their lawn. While some readers dismissed the story as chain mail, others-like the Animal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)-investigated the claim and found that cocoa mulch truly is a threat to dogs.

Made from cocoa bean shells, the mulch contains the same canine threats found in chocolate: caffeine and Theobromine. But, unlike regular chocolate, cocoa mulch has the highest concentration of Theobromine a pet is likely to encounter, making it a greater risk.

For example, according to the ASPCA Web site, a 50-lb dog could ingest up to 7.5 oz of chocolate without gastrointestinal upset. If that same dog ate more than 2 oz of cocoa mulch, it could experience vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. While he could eat a pound of milk chocolate before his heart rate increased, he wouldn't get more than 5 oz of cocoa mulch down before possibly suffering from seizures.

The ASPCA notes that eating as little as 9 oz of cocoa mulch could lead to death for a 50-lb dog.

It's important to share this information with pet owners, for many cocoa mulch brands don't include warnings on their labels. Hershey's Cocoa Mulch, the brand Moose ate, didn't have a warning. Only after Moose's death did the owners discover on the company's Web site that half of dogs that each the mulch might suffer physical symptoms.

To download a cocoa bean fertilizer warning to give to clients, click here.

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Angela Elia, BS, LVT, CVT, VTS (ECC)
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