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The Dangers of Mulch: Lawn Safety for Pets

A message about the dangers of using cocoa mulch in your garden has been circulating on the internet – but this is no e-mail hoax.

According to the ASPCA, coca mulch is a serious threat to pets. Mulch products, especially cocoa bean mulch, may contain residues of a caffeine-like substance, theobromine, in varying amounts. Made from spent cocoa beans used in the production of chocolate, cocoa mulch has a smell that is very attractive to dogs. Pets who consume mulch could potentially develop signs similar to that of chocolate poisoning, including vomiting and diarrhea. In cases where large amounts of mulch are consumed, muscle tremors or other more serious neurological problems, and even death, can occur. 

Other yard dangers

Mulch is not the only lawn and garden product that requires cautious handing around pets. Insecticides and pesticides are designed to kill and many of the ingredients in these products can also harm your pet. Always read and carefully follow directions.

To be safe, restrict your pet’s access to areas where the chemicals have been applied. Always store products in their original, labeled containers out of the reach of children and pets.

Pet experts say that m ost lawn fertilizers are made from nontoxic chemicals and can be used safely around pets – as long as you read and follow label directions. Watering the lawn after each application is required with some products. Others may require the grass to dry before allowing pets or people on the lawn. Do not allow pets to come in direct contact with the chemical – even if it’s non-toxic.

Some dogs are attracted to any organic matter (it’s remarkable what they’ll consume!)  and should not be left unsupervised in areas where lawn and garden materials are being used or stored.

If you suspect that your dog has consumed an organic fertilizer or been exposed to a toxic chemical, contact your veterinarian immediately or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.