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If You Own a Dog, Should You Mulch?


It’s that time of year, yard work and landscaping are going on everywhere!

But if you own dogs, should you use mulch? Maybe or maybe not.

Here are two questions to help you decide if mulching will be safe around your dog:

  • What kind of mulch do you plan on using?
  • Do you have a curious – or even bored – dog that loves to chew?

While “mulch” may seem pretty much alike, not all mulch is the same, especially when it comes to the safety of your dog. While most mulch is non-toxic to your dog, there are some that can cause serious medical issues.

cocoa-1134226_1280For example, most dog owners know that chocolate is bad for canines. Similarly, cocoa bean mulch (also known as cocoa mulch; cocoa bean shell mulch and cocoa bean hull mulch) can also be toxic to your dog. While many people like cocoa mulch because of its color and pleasant odor, it may also be a potentially dangerous choice to your dog’s health. Mulch made from cocoa shells (a by-product of chocolate-making) contains the potentially toxic chemicals of theobromine and caffeine (both nervous system stimulants). If large enough amounts of these stimulants (which is directly related to the size of your dog) are ingested, toxic poisoning could mean death for your dog.

Even in lesser amounts, these two potentially toxic chemicals can also cause: irregular heart rhythms, increased heart rates and blood pressure, muscle tremors, hyperactivity, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, anxiety and restlessness, excessive panting, increased urination, dark red gums and even seizures. (And the smaller the dog, the faster and more deadly the effects of toxic poisoning become.)

Going back to our earlier question about having a curious or bored dog that likes to chew, this kind of behavior can cause a severe choking hazard with many kinds of mulch. Also, if ingested, mulch could create life-threatening esophageal and/or intestinal blockages requiring dangerous and expensive surgery.

It’s also very possible that your dog – unbeknownst to you – may be allergic to some types of mulch and end up with reactions like skin rashes, bumps filled with pus, wheezing, excessive itching and hives.

Considering colored mulch? Here are some potential concerns you’ll want to address first:

  • What kind of wood is the mulch is comprised of? Typically, colored mulchwood-806995_1280 is created with recycled wood (like wood pallets and “reclaimed” wood from demolition and construction sites, older fences and decks). Why is this important? Reclaimed, older woods could be contaminated with chemicals like creosote and chromated copper arsenate. (CCA was once used in the manufacture of older pressure-treated wood; although it’s since been banned.)
  • Added colors or dyes could also be toxic to your dog; particularly red and black mulch whichmulch-70901_1280 contains arsenic. While manufacturers and retailers may tell you these colors and dyes are “safe” to use, do you really want to take that chance with your beloved four-legged family member (or even your child)?

It’s also important to know what pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers or mold inhibitors have been added to the mulch you’re thinking about using in your yard. In addition, avoid any mulch that contains essential oils or resins, which could cause drooling, vomiting and loss of appetite and if consumed in large enough amounts, even central nervous system depression and/or damage to your family dog.

So before exposing your dog to mulch in your yard, do some research first before you decide to mulch or not to mulch.