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.

Common California Plant Can Kill Your Pets

Oleander Plants are drought tolerant, easy to grow, make excellent hedges and  wind barriers and many of us have them in our front and back yards but they are  dangerous for our pets. 

I remember when I was a kid a woman in Palm Springs murdered her husband by making him oleander tea! She is probably still in prison!

Thank you to the Petco web site for the following information.
Toxicity Rating: High. Ingestion of even small amounts can kill.

Dangerous Parts: The entire plant is toxic. Consuming leaves, fresh or dried, will poison most dogs.

Symptoms: Gastrointestinal irritation, cardiac abnormalities and death, which may be sudden.

Plant Description: Oleander grows as an indoor plant in the northern United States and as an outdoor shrub in California, Florida and other warm regions. The leaves are lance-shaped, thick and leathery, and grow opposite each other. Sometimes leaves may grow in whorls. The leaves are 8 to 10 inches long, although smaller specimens will have shorter leaves. Flowers are showy, approximately 1 to 3 inches in diameter, and grow in large clusters at the ends of the branches. They can be white or any shade of pink or red.

Signs: Oleander contains the toxins oleandrin and nerioside, which are very similar to the toxins in foxglove (digitalis). Oleander is not palatable, but may still be eaten by hungry dogs. Dried or wilted leaves may be slightly more palatable than fresh leaves, but the leaves are toxic when wilted or dried. In one report, approximately pound of leaves (about 30 or 40 leaves) delivered a lethal dose to an adult horse.
Clinical signs may develop rapidly, and the dog may be found dead with no prior warning. In other cases, depression coupled with gastrointestinal distress is evident: vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), and abdominal pain. Irregularities in the heart rate and rhythm will occur: the heart may speed up or slow down and beat erratically. As the toxicosis progresses, the extremities may become cold, and the mucous membranes pale. Trembling and collapse can occur, followed by coma and death within a few hours.

First Aid: If dogs are observed eating oleander, contact a veterinarian immediately. The toxin acts quickly and is lethal in small amounts. Emergency measures may be used to empty the gastrointestinal tract of remaining plant matter, and medications may be administered to control the effects that the toxin has on the heart. Despite emergency care, the dog may still die, but the sooner treatment is begun, the better the chance for survival.

Prevention: Be able to identify oleander and exercise extreme caution when pets (and humans) are in the vicinity of these plants. Never place oleander where your dogs can have contact. Take extra care in cases where leaves can fall into a yard or a pen occupied by a bored or hungry dog. Animals and humans can also be hurt by oleander, even without touching the plant. Breathing the smoke or burning branches can cause poisoning, and merely smelling the flowers may be harmful.



Explanation by Dr. Becker 

It is important for human health that we keep vermin out of our homes and garages but we are accidentally killing our pets, our neighbor’s pets and wildlife by using poisoned bait.

Even if you feel you have put bait in a safe spot where your pets have no access you need to consider that rats and mice in wanting to take their loot back to their nests, often move the bait. Additionally if you dog or cat eats a rat that has ingested poison it then becomes a secondary poisoning and just as serious. Secondary poisoning is also responsible for the deaths of many hawks, owls and other birds of prey.

Ever wonder how professional pest control bait boxes work: The poison bait has a groove drilled thru the center for the purpose of dropping them onto spools inside the box, its a good plan except that rats often pull large chunks of poison off the spools. If they get waylaid along the route to their nests and drop the bait, your dog or cat can find the poison.

The LA Zoo had professional pest control bait boxes installed as they felt this would be safest way to control rodent populations in the park. An Orangutan noticed a rat run thru its cage, it just left a bait box outside the ape cage and was carrying a large chunk of poison. The orangutan caught the rat, killed it and ate the poison.

My own experience was that I was walking my dog and noticed she had picked up something from the ground that was blue/green and looked like detergent. I pulled it from her mouth and could see the spool groove down the center; it was half of an entire chunk of bait.  I noticed a black bait box in my neighbors yard about twenty feet away.

It is my opinion that snaps traps (placed out of reach of kids & pets) are the safest and most humane ways to kill rodents.