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Cocoa mulch can pose risk for pets

Ingredients for sweet-smelling yard dangerous for dogs

Cocoa mulch is available at many garden supply stores.  (Photo: Paul Munson / WNYT)
Cocoa mulch is available at many garden supply stores. (Photo: Paul Munson / WNYT)

NISKAYUNA, April 24
By MATT McFARLAND

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As soon as the weather breaks again many homeowners and gardeners are sure to be outside getting their hands dirty. 

But veterinarians say a sweet-smelling mulch can be deadly to certain family pets.

"Cocoa mulch is a risk, especially to dogs,” said Dr. Larry Family of Aqueduct Animal Hospital.

Found in most home garden centers, cocoa mulch is known for its fine texture and the sweet smell the fresh mulch gives off.

“The weird thing is, it smells like a chocolate Pop Tart.  That's the best way I can describe it.  It really does have a chocolate scent to it,” explained Shane Compton of Hewitt's Garden Center.

But getting past the scent, Family says cocoa mulch can be dangerous if a dog starts eating it.  It contains two key ingredients found in chocolate: theobromine and caffeine.  Similar to eating chocolate, he says a dog that eats just a few ounces of cocoa mulch could starting having stomach problems and it could get worse if it eats more.

"As time goes on they might act restless, excited, it can produce tremors and seriously seizures,” Family explained.

Compton says cocoa mulch is not that popular at his store, but says it has its regular customers who every now and then wonder about the rumors they hear and the effect it has on man's best friend.

“There's always stories on the Internet, but in the 30 years we've been here we've actually never heard of any body's dog getting sick,” Compton said.

Family adds that while pet owners might not know it, the information out there on cocoa mulch is much more than just an urban legend or Internet myth if a dog gets its paws on it. 

“Puppies are very curious animals.  So they've going to be attracted to various things around the yard and it seems to be more severe in the small breeds and it depends on the amount they actually ingest,” Family said.

If you have a dog and a yard Family says the best bet is to just stay away from cocoa mulch.

If you're still looking for a sweet-smelling mulch without the potentially hazardous effects Compton recommends any type of cedar product.

Last Updated: Mon Apr 24 12:58:00 EDT 2006