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Beware! Cocoa Mulch With Pets

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Why not love Cocoa mulch? It has a rich dark brown color that hasn't been dyed and smells wonderful. So what's the problem?

This increasingly popular mulch is toxic to pets, especially dogs! 

Cocoa mulch, also called cocoa shell mulch, cocoa bean mulch, cocoa bean shell mulch, or cocoa bean hull mulch, depending on who is selling it,  is made from the roasted shell of cocoa beans and sold in most home and garden stores.  It contains the chemical theobromine, which is the same chemical found in chocolate that vets have been warning about for years.

It is just as toxic to cats as it is dogs, but cats tend to be picky eaters and usually wont chew on, or eat something that doesn't taste good to them.  Most dogs will swallow things regardless of taste or smell, and they also will ingest larger quantities at a time. Dogs also have more of an interest in sweet smells so the cocoa mulch can become a large problem for them.

According to the ASPCA, the effect the mulch can have on a dog depends on the size of the dog, amount ingested, and the amount of theobromine in the mulch.

“If you have a 20-pound dog, mild signs could be seen with the ingestion of a little less than an ounce of cocoa mulch,” Kansas State University veterinarian, Dr. Susan Nelson says. “More severe signs could be seen with the ingestion of around one to one and a half ounces, so it doesn't take very much.”

Signs of theobromine poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea, an increased heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and possibly death. A very small amount of ingested cocoa mulch can cause dogs to have gastrointestinal complications.

“If your dog has an encounter with cocoa mulch, the best thing to do is call your veterinarian as soon as possible because the dog will most likely need medical attention,” Nelson said.

The amount of theobromine in mulch varies widely from brand to brand, so the best way to avoid harming your pet is to purchase another mulch for your garden.  Why take the risk?

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