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.