Cocoa Mulch Can Be Toxic to Dogs & Cats
Forwarded email claims that cocoa mulch, which contains the chemical theobromine, can be toxic to dogs and cats.
Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: May 2001
Email contributed by Laura C., May 20, 2001:
W A R N I N G
Cocoa mulch which is sold by Home Depot, Foremans Garden Supply and other garden supply stores, contains a lethal ingredient called "theobromine" which is lethal to dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate. It really attracts dogs, and they will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths have already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks.
Just a word of caution. Check what you are using in your gardens, and beware of what your gardeners are using in your gardens.
Email contributed by C. Broome, May 23, 2003:
Subject: Warning - Cocoa mulch
I am sending this to everyone I know who has dogs or cats. I received this email from my veterinarian. It was discussed on the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy board.
Cocoa Mulch, which is sold by Home Depot, Foreman's Garden Supply and other Garden supply stores, contains a lethal ingredient called "theobromine".
It is lethal to dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks. Just a word of caution - check what you are using in your gardens and be aware of what your gardeners are using in your gardens.
Theobromine is the ingredient that is used to make all chocolate - especially dark or baker's chocolate - which is toxic to dogs.
Cacao bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of theobromine, a xanthine compound similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. A dog that ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.
Analysis: No question about it, chocolate and other products made from cacao beans e.g., cocoa mulch contain substances toxic to certain animals, including both dogs and cats. And the main culprit is indeed theobromine, a caffeine-like chemical which acts as a mild diuretic and stimulant in human beings but is poisonous to animals less well equipped to metabolize it.
Cocoa mulch, which consists mainly of cacao bean shells, contains a higher concentration of theobromine than chocolate processed for human consumption. Dogs are attracted to the scent and in documented cases have eaten the stuff, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, seizures and, in rare instances, death (see symptom list). While it's equally toxic to cats, veterinarians say they are less likely to ingest cocoa products and therefore less at risk.
If you suspect your dog may have eaten cocoa mulch, the ASPCA recommends contacting your veterinarian immediately or calling the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 for expert advice.
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Sources and further reading:
Veterinary Q & A: Chocolate Toxicity
About Veterinary Medicine, 9 Feb 2000
Cast Off Cocoa Mulch May Be Poisonous to Dogs
WIS-TV News, 3 June 2003
Theobromine Chemistry -Chocolate
About Chemistry, 3 Sep 2001
Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs
Apogee Communications: Pet First Aid by Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald
Cacao Bean Shell Poisoning in a Dog
Abstract: Journal of the American Veterinary Assoc., 15 Oct 1984
Last updated: 04/25/06