Protect Your Pet: Cocoa Mulch May Be Deadly!

Please tell every dog or cat owner you know. Beware of Cocoa Mulch! Even if you don’t have a pet, please pass this to those who do. Over the weekend, the doting owner of two young lab mixes purchased Cocoa Mulch from Target to use in their garden. The dogs loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats away from their garden. Their dog (Calypso) decided the mulch smelled good enough to eat and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was typical when she eats something new but wasn’t acting lethargic in any way. The next day, Mom woke up and took Calypso out for her morning walk. Half way through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly.

Although the mulch had NO warnings printed on the label, upon further investigation this was listed on the company’s web site, this product is HIGHLY toxic to dogs and cats. contacted Greg Leone, owner of Leone Outdoor Services, to get the real scoop about this sweet smelling yet potentially deadly Cocoa Mulch. “I don’t use it” says Leone. “There is no reason to, with it’s cost prohibitive price tag (a 40lb. bag of cocoa mulch is approximately 8 dollars compared to other similar mulch at 2-3 dollars for the same size bag and it’s hazardous to pets, it’s not an option for us.” Leone warns, ” there is mulch that looks and feels exactly the same as cocoa mulch without the big price tag. Pay attention to what you are buying if you are doing the work yourself, otherwise ask your landscape or gardening professional exactly what they are using for mulch.” If you have questions about your lawn and garden needs Greg Leone can be reached at 248-421-8287 (he always answers his phone!) or contact him at

Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey’s, and they claim that “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.”

*Snopes site gives the following information: *

Cocoa Mulch, which is sold by Home Depot, Foreman’s Garden Supply, Target and other Garden supply stores contains a lethal ingredient called ‘Theobromine’. It is lethal to dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks.

Theobromine is in all chocolate, especially dark or baker’s chocolate which is toxic to dogs. 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 cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.

A huge thank you to the concerned reader for sending us this important pet safety information to share with our readers!  Stay tuned,  Allison

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