Is Cocoa Bean Mulch Toxic to Pets?

“I’ve heard that mulch made from cocoa beans can be toxic to animals. Is there any truth to that?” -James

According to a 2003 study by the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, cocoa bean mulch can be toxic to animals. Cocoa bean mulch is made from the shells of cocoa beans and is usually manufactured as a byproduct of chocolate factories. Like chocolate, cocoa bean mulch contains theobromide, a chemical that is very hard for many animals—including dogs, cats, and horses—to metabolize. Cocoa bean mulch is most dangerous for dogs, because they are more likely to be attracted to the cocoa smell and eat the mulch. Cats cannot taste sweetness and therefore don’t usually eat it.

The most common symptom of theobromine poisoning (a condition called “methylxanthine toxicosis”) is vomiting and/or diarrhea. If eaten in greater quantities, symptoms include muscle tremors, seizures, rapid heartbeat, hyperactivity, and even death. If you suspect your pet has methylxanthine toxicosis or any other kind of poisoning, immediately seek treatment from a veterinarian – prompt treatment can help lessen the effects of the toxin and possibly save your pet’s life.

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