the dangers of landscaping with cocoa mulch

the dangers of landscaping with cocoa mulch
Posted by fetch! blog editors on May 16 2014

Every spring, pet parents get out the spade, the shovel, and the gardening gloves to work on their green thumb. A quick trip to the local nursery for bulbs, seeds, and mulch and you’re on your way to a fresh new yard for the year. But did you know certain types of mulch can be dangerous for pets?

When you buy mulch, read the ingredients. If it has theobromine in it, and you have pets who may come contact with it at home, consider an alternative mulch solution.

Is cocoa mulch toxic to dogs?

Mulch with theobromine, like cocoa mulch, is good for gardening for many reasons:

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  • it’s lightweight 
  • it's easy to spread
  • it deters slugs and snails
  • it looks nice and smells like chocolate

But what's good for the garden is not always good for your pet. Cocoa mulch can harm your dog because it's made of the leftover material from the cocoa bean roasting process. This leftover material contains theobromine, the same compound found in chocolate, but at a much higher concentration than even Baker's chocolate. When dogs consume theobromine, they can exhibit signs of illness. 

Cocoa mulch poisoning signs

  • 50% of cases report vomiting.
  • 33% of cases report tremors. This was cause when the amount ingested was “large or significant”.
  • 17% of cases reported a rapid heart rate, hyperactivity, or diarrhea.
  • Muscle tremors, seizures, and death can be caused when large amounts are consumed.

So what's a pet loving gardener to do? Keep your dog safe with alternatives to cocoa mulch like cedar chips and straw. They’re less toxic and they don’t smell quite as delicious for your dog, so there's less chance of them chomping down on your freshly mulched flower beds. 


If you suspect your pet has ingested cocoa mulch, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

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