VetNetwork Blog

Pet Owners’ Springtime Thoughts Turn To Cocoa Mulch

0 Comments Posted by Vet Network in General on Sunday, March 20th, 2016.

It’s the first day of spring and many of your clients’ thoughts are turning toward planting gardens and sprucing up their yard now that all the snow is gone. That means you may start getting more questions from clients about how dangerous cocoa mulch is for their dog. Around this time each year, various email warnings about cocoa mulch start circulating around the web, and more than a few of your clients have likely seen the warning in their inbox.

Unlike those other dubious emails promising free Starbucks gift cards and warning of weird urban legends, this email contains a grain of truth. As its name implies, cocoa mulch contains cocoa bean shells. Like chocolate, cocoa bean shells contain theobromine, a naturally occurring chemical that’s similar to caffeine and very toxic to dogs.

How exactly cocoa mulch affects a dog depends on the dog’s weight and how much mulch he or she actually consumes. A recent study by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center found that 2 ounces of mulch eaten by a 50-pound dog will cause upset stomach while 4.5 ounces of mulch will cause an increased heart rate and 5.3 ounces of mulch will cause seizures. Any quantity of mulch more than 9 ounces could cause death, according to the ASPCA.

You can read one version of the email warning here at DVM360. While the actual text of the email varies, most detail the case of a dog who died from consuming too much cocoa mulch and warn pet owners to avoid using the mulch in their garden. The rumor-and-urban-legend-debunking website Snopes has a full run-down on the email’s variations here.

As an alternative, point clients in the direction of cedar chips and straw for their landscaping needs. They’re less toxic to dogs than cocoa mulch, though urge clients to use caution, as some brands of cedar mulch may contain oils and resins that cause upset stomach in pets. A Place for Animal’s website has excellent information for your clients on many household items – including fertilizer and mulches – that may be toxic to pets.

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