By Elisa Black-Taylor
After reading Michael’s new article about weedkiller being used in communal, lawned areas of apartment buildings I felt the need to address the topic of Hershey’s Cocoa Mulch.
I became interested in this product, which is made up of cocoa bean husks, last week when I saw a post saying a dog had died after eating the mulch. This product sounds like a good method to turn a waste product into something useful. Cocoa mulch is sold as a mulching product and used in gardens the same way regular mulch is used.
The problem is the mulch is reported to contain up to 300-1200 mg. of theobromine, which is the ingredient in chocolate that is poisonous to pets. After one week outside in an area that receives a lot of rain, cocoa mulch will turn into the consistency of a chocolate brownie. In other words; doggy treat. Or kitty treat, as the case may be. What if a cat drinks from a puddle near where the mulch has been spread?
So I started to dig around on the internet to see if there was anything to back up claims that the product could pose a danger to outdoor pets. The Hershey company, manufacturer of the product, made a statement many years ago saying that 50% of dogs who eat it will have serious complications from ingesting the product. While a cat isn’t as likely to chow down on this, I do worry about water runoff infected with theobromine. There’s a good write-up on the Snopes site (Google: “snopes cocoa mulch”).
As it turns out, there have been cocoa mulch hoaxes, but there was also some truth in them. The companies that manufactured the mulch didn’t pull the product, because it wasn’t a “food” issue. And their label at the time listed it was harmful to pets.
Fast forward to today. Cocoa mulch may or may not harm an animal. The stories passed around online about pets falling over in seizures after ingesting the mulch may or may not be true. I simply can’t say for certain on any of this. Hershey’s and other companies who manufacture the product are said to have changed the formula.
Still, the problem of something inside of a product we think is all natural and healthy for the environment, but turns out to be the opposite, is a concern. Just Google “cocoa mulch” and see how many articles pop up about this product. Many are years old and considered outdated to the product made today. That may or may not be true.
It’s very simple to figure out what we can learn from this example. We must learn to read labels and understand what the different compounds can do to our pets. Then either keep our pets away from the toxic product or refuse to use it in the first place. I think it’s sad we have to become “scientists” in order to protect our pets.
Readers, have any of you ever had a bad experience using a product touted as being “natural” or “good for the environment.” Something the average pet owner would never expect to be deadly?
Associated page: Toxic to cats.