Beware of Cocoa Bean Mulch in Your Garden


Potential Danger: Sweet-smelling but potentially harmful cocoa bean mulch.

Cocoa mulch, made of cocoa bean shells, is a by-product of chocolate production. It is commonly used in landscaping, but pet parents would do best to use an alternative mulch; if eaten in large quantities, cocoa mulch can be toxic to pets.
“Dogs are attracted to the fertilizer’s sweet smell,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Animal Health Services, “but like chocolate, cocoa bean mulch can be too much for our canine companions.”
The ASPCA notes that, “Ingestion of large amounts of cocoa bean mulch, which contains residual amounts of theobromine—a methylxanthine found in chocolate and known to be toxic to dogs—may cause a variety of clinical signs. These typically start with vomiting, diarrhea and elevated heart rate, and if large amounts are consumed, they may progress to hyperactivity, muscle tremors and possibly other more serious neurological signs.”
“We advise pet parents not to use cocoa mulch in areas where dogs can be exposed unobserved, particularly dogs who have indiscriminate eating habits,” says Dr. Hansen. Use instead a nontoxic alternative, such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark.