Most pet owners are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats because it contains theobromine, which acts as a cardiovascular and central nervous system stimulant. Symptoms in pets after ingestion of chocolate may include vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, and even seizures if not treated. While you can ensure that your pet does not have access to any source of chocolate in your house, there is another source of theobromine that you may not be aware of, and it is found in the garden in the form of cocoa mulch.
Cocoa mulch, which is a byproduct of cocoa production, tends to attracts dogs because of its sweet odor, and it contains a higher concentration of theobromine than regular chocolate made for consumption. Cocoa mulch is made from cocoa bean shells and may be toxic if your dog ingests it in sufficient quantities.
The ASPCA notes that “…dogs who consume enough cocoa bean shell mulch could potentially develop signs similar to that of chocolate poisoning…” However, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has no reported cases of pet deaths from ingestion of cocoa mulch. Nevertheless, it is safest not to use cocoa mulch in places where your dog or other curious animals have access to. Additionally, there are many other less toxic forms of mulch such as shredded cedar or pine, or even mulch made from recycled rubber. If you do choose to use cocoa mulch, look for bags labeled “pet-safe.”