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Cocoa mulch may be hazardous to dogs

By Al Cooke, Extension Agent
Posted Monday, May 8, 2006

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Apparently some of the “big box stores” and perhaps others have been stocking cocoa bean shell mulch. I haven’t seen it locally, but neither have I looked. Apparently the mulch has an odor attractive not only to humans but also to dogs. Apparently some dogs will eat it.

According to an ASPCA website http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pro_apcc_publicationscocoa , some of the materials in this mulch can be toxic to dogs depending on the size of the dog, the amount eaten, and the concentration of theobromine in the mulch. In short there are a lot of variables. I could get long-winded with horror stories. Documented clinical signs include vomiting, tremors, tachycardia (whatever that is!), hyperactivity, and diarrhea. High doses have resulted in death.

Let’s just say that it’s not a good thing for your dogs to eat a lot of this mulch. In the 16th century, Paracelsus, the “father” of modern toxicology suggested “the dose makes the poison.” And I don’t know how much is a lot.


While I’m on this subject,… I checked with one of my colleagues who breeds and raises dogs before I went off about something I don’t know a lot about - dogs' dietary habits and associated risks. He advised me that sometimes dogs will just eat a lot of stuff that could result in either diarrhea or constipation, either of which can have serious implications. Just because they like it doesn’t mean it’s good for them.

He also suggested I remind you to read the fine print on household or garden products. We tend to think that if we can buy it in an ordinary store, then our government (or someone) assures us it can’t be too hazardous.

You have no such assurance. Last year I purchased a solvent from a “big box.” The solvent was far more hazardous than any pesticide I’ve ever used. If you have pets, … or children, … or grandchildren, … or if you just happen to be human yourself, it’s usually a good idea to read the fine print. I know you read so much fine print and you know that a hot iron can burn, and you know that it can be hazardous to drive with the windshield shade in place! But it’s still a good idea, especially with new products, to at least give it a skeptical once over.

 
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