Cocoa Mulch Contains an Ingredient Harmful to Pets-Truth!

Cocoa Mulch Contains an Ingredient Harmful to Pets-Truth!

Summary of eRumor:

There are several versions of this eRumor but all of them say that commonly sold cocoa mulch contains theobromine which can be lethal to cats and dogs.  One version tells the story of a pet owner who lost a dog because of cocoa mulch.

The Truth:

It’s fairly well known that some animals should not eat chocolate and according to the experts we checked with that warning applies to cocoa mulch as well, although the number of reported animal deaths is very low.  The villain is theobromine, a chemical that is similar to caffeine.  It can give a boost to humans but dogs and cats cannot always metabolize it successfully and it can be lethal to them.  That is especially true of the shells of the cacao beans, which are ground up and used in cocoa mulch, and contain even higher levels of theobromine than the bean.

Most packaging of cocoa mulch makes it clear that it’s not for human or animal consumption.  It also appears that all cocoa mulch is not the same.  One manufacturer we checked with, the maker of Mirana cocoa mulch, said that their mulch is the result of a series of processing steps and that the level of theobromine in their mulch is barely detectable. 

We did find at least one documented case reported in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)..  The report says that a dog that had ingested cocoa mulch developed convulsions and died 17-hours later.  An analysis of the stomach showed ingested cacao bean shells and lethal levels of theobromine.

The AVMA has issued a release because of this new eRumor about cocoa mulch.  It says that according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), there have not been any reports in 2006 of animals dying from cocoa mulch ingestion.  In the years spanning 2004 and 2005 there were 16 cases of cocoa mulch ingestion reported, none of which resulted in death.

The ASPCA says that the account of the death of the dog named Calypso that is in the eRumor is “suspect.”  The symptoms are not completely consistent with death from cocoa bean ingestion.  The ASPCA says that although vomiting is a common result, the dog is described as having had a single seizure the next day during a walk and then dying suddenly, which is not what would be expected.

Updated 5/25/06