It’s that time of year when gardeners and landscapers are out in full force sprucing up their yards and lawns. That makes it the right time of year to remind everyone about the dangers of cocoa mulch.
Cocoa mulch is made from the shell of cocoa beans. It looks and smells great. Because of the chocolate-like smell, dogs, especially, are attracted to it and may eat it. Unfortunately, cocoa mulch contains caffeine and theobromine, just like chocolate does. These chemicals have an effect on animals similar to that on people. They increase the breathing and heart rate, sometimes causing irregular beating of the heart. They cause restlessness, and the caffeine also directly stimulates the heart muscle and the central nervous system.
Common signs of cocoa mulch toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, panting, hyperactivity, restlessness, incoordination, muscle tremors, increased or decreased heart rate, irregular heart rhythm, and increased body temperature. Seizures, coma, or death may occur. Less frequent symptoms include abdominal pain and blood in the urine.
If your pet has eaten cocoa mulch, contact your veterinarian immediately. Time is critical. Your veterinarian may recommend that you induce vomiting. At your veterinarian’s office, they may continue to induce vomiting and give activated charcoal. Intravenous fluids may be given to prevent dehydration and to stimulate more urine production to help rid the body of the toxins. The heart rate and rhythm will be monitored, and heart medications given if necessary. Your pet will also be monitored and treated for any hyperthermia (increase in body temperature) and seizures. The urinary bladder may need to be catheterized to prevent reabsorption of the toxins. Most pets will recover if treated promptly.
Because it can be harmful to animals if ingested, please think carefully about using cocoa mulch and always supervise your pets outdoors.
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