Cocoa Bean Mulch, and Dogs

by Catherine Haug

If you have dogs, you might want to pay attention. You probably already know that ingestion of chocolate can lead to a disease known as methylxanthine toxicosis, and cause death for the dog. Some cats might also be affected.

So veterinarians at the ASPCA Animal Poison Center, Urbana, IL were interested to know if a popular landscaping mulch made from cocoa beans could cause the same problem for man’s best friend.

They concluded:

“Dogs consuming cocoa bean mulch might develop methylxanthine toxicosis. Clinical signs shown in the case studies included vomiting and muscle tremors, but life-threatening signs were not reported. Pet owners should avoid use of cocoa bean mulch in landscaping and around unsupervised dogs.”(1)

How much of the mulch can cause trouble (1):

  • 2 oz cocoa bean mulch would likely cause gastrointestinal upset;
  • 4.5 oz mulch would likely cause tachycardia (rapid heart beat);
  • 5.3 oz would likely result in seizures;
  • 9 oz or more would likely be lethal.

It takes MUCH LESS of the mulch than of chocolate bars to cause problems, because the mulch is MUCH MORE concentrated in theobromine, the form of caffeine in chocolate that causes the problem.

Symptoms of methylxanthine toxicosis

Clinical signs of problems will show in 6 – 12 hours after ingestion. These symptoms include (1):

“Excess thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, and restlessness.

Symptoms progress to hyperactivity, excess urination, tremors and seizures, as well as other major cardiovascular and neurological signs.

Death is generally due to cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory failure.”


Treatment of affected dogs includes (1):

“administration of multiple dose activated charcoal (2 grams per kilogram of body weight), IV support, and tremor control with cardiac monitoring.”

Refer to their information sheet, for more on this subject: Cocoa Bean Mulch as a Cause of Methylxanthine Toxicosis in Dogs. You might want to keep a copy of this handy.

Other Potential Problems from Cocoa Bean Mulch

Cocoa bean mulch poses other potential problems as well (1):

“Cocoa bean mulch has been found to contain pesticides and mycotoxin-producing mold, which causes other major health problems for animals.”


  1. Can Cocoa Bean Mulch Be Lethal for Your Pets?
  2. Cocoa Bean Mulch as a Cause of Methylxanthine Toxicosis in Dogs
  3. Chocolate Intoxication, by Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD.

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