Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cocoa Mulch: Is It Dangerous? The Fears and the Truth

Cocoa Mulch, not as dangerous as it used to be

When we (Bruce, Amy and Vader) first heard of chocolate flavored (Cocoa) Mulch, our initial reaction was that this apparent toxic food seemed like a stupid idea to market.  Stupid, considering how dangerous chocolate can be for dogs and cats.

And we hung with that premise for a while, keeping our eyes peeled for the like on front lawns and what not. Then the other day I started seeing Facebook posts about how one person's animal ate some mulch, then died the next day.

That truly is a scary story for animal owners, and well meaning folks are sharing this tale of whoa with as many folks as they can, to get the word out.

But I caution those with good intent, that they should always double check with snopes.com or other such rumor control websites to make sure that what they're sharing is accurate.  Because if it isn't accurate, well, it can be disappointing on many levels, despite the good intent.

So when we saw the warning about the Cocoa Mulch, I checked out Snopes and I'm glad we did.

The original concerns originated back in 2003, but the concerns, would appear to be outdated worries.

YES, "Cocoa beans contain the stimulants caffeine and theobromine. Dogs are highly sensitive to these chemicals, called methylxanthines."

And yes, the Cocoa Mulch is sold by mainstream stores.

But there's a statement from Home Depot that caught my eye:


"The Home Depot does not and will not sell mulch harmful to pets. The mulch sold by The Home Depot containing cocoa shells goes through several cleaning processes, including a high heat system in order to strip the cocoa fat from the shells without the use of any chemicals."

The chemical in chocolate that poses a hazard to animals is Theobromine, and the toxicity of the compound is related to...

1) The type of chocolate (unsweetened being the most toxic),

2) Size of the animal and

3) The amount ingested.

It's been said the cautionary amount is one once per pound.  (Ounce of chocolate per weight of animal). But seriously, why take chances?

What Theobromine does is impact the heart, their central nervous system, and their kidneys and though a vet can induce vomiting, there is no real treatment for this toxicity beyond the induced vomiting and hoping for the best.  And death from the chemical can occur within 24 hours.

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Bottom line: The amount of chocolate product eaten to make it toxic is a lot more than I thought it might have been.

It seems the products out there may have been "washed" or filtered enough to make them safer than we dog owners fear.

The warnings going around are awesome public reminder awareness efforts, but always check Snopes to make sure we're passing on good information.

I was once very embarrassed when I passed on a well meaning warning that had to actual merit to it and since that day, I learned my lesson.  How many of you have friends always sending out the warnings they come across, no matter what they are?  Yep, I have some too.

When it comes down to it, if you're known for crying wolf about questionable concerns and the real wolf comes around, and you NEED folks to hear you, will they pay attention?  That's always my fear, so I keep my warnings or cautions to a minimum.

(I qualify this as information, not a warning, so it doesn't count against my real warning tally!)

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Good reading with good resources at the bottom of it:  snopes.com: cocoa mulch

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