I had a fellow Master Gardener send this to me. I have often thought how nice it would be to use this product. The smell would put me in Heaven. I am a chocoholic to the nth degree!
Cocoa Mulch is sold by many garden supply stores. It contains a lethal ingredient called 'Theobromine'. It is lethal to dogs. While it's equally toxic to cats, veterinarians say they are less likely to ingest cocoa products and therefore less at risk. I always knew cats were smarter than dogs! Sorry, I am a cat person, and I digress. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs.. They will ingest this stuff and die.
Theobromine is in all chocolate, especially dark or baker's chocolate. Cocoa 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 cocoa bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cocoa bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.
This particular story seems to have some doubters.
The original story had to do with a dog named Calypso. The story being circulated about this young dog ingesting cocoa bean shell mulch may be true. However, Dr. Steve Hansen, Director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Animal Poison Control Center has said, the cause of the dog's death is "highly suspect." The statement that she vomited a few times is consistent with such poisoning, but not the absence of other clinical signs until the next day, when the dog is said to have had a single seizure during her morning walk and died instantly.
He also said, "You get a progression of signs,vomiting, diarrhea, more vomiting, trembling, the heart rate kicks up, then it may progress to seizures if the dose is exceptionally high, with death being uncommon. There was probably an underlying condition that caused the dogs death".
Cocoa mulch contains 300-1200 mg of Theobromine, per ounce, making it a very strong concentration. It is true that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to a variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98% of all dogs won't eat it. I know of a couple of dogs that actually ate Chocolate and they were fine. I am not, BY ANY MEANS, advocating this, just an observation.
There are some benefits to using this kind of mulch. It is 100% organic. Cocoa Shell Mulch contains approximately 2.5% Nitrogen, 1% Phosphate and 3% Potash. It does not act like a wood based ground cover which removes nitrogen from the soil as it breaks down. There is also some research showing that it contains a natural gum that, when activated with water, the cocoa shells bond into a loosely knit porous mat. This enables cocoa shell mulch to do a better job of slowing soil moisture loss through evaporation and retarding weed growth. The texture of cocoa shells deters slugs and snails to help prevent plant damage. It has also been discovered to discourage termites. Plus it smells like Chocolate!!
So, I guess it boils down to a couple of things. If you are always outside with your dog and can keep an eye on what it gets into, go ahead and use it. If, on the other hand, your dog is outside by itself a lot and can get into the mulch, you may want to reconsider it and use some other kind, possibly Cedar or Pine.
I personally do not use a lot of mulch, but if I did, I would love to get some of this stuff. My dog NEVER goes outside without me or the wife, and having the smell of Chocolate greet us each time we walked outside would be wonderful!!