Pet Safety-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pet Safety


With warm weather upon us, many of us return working in our yards and gardens.  Most of us know that our pets can be harmed by pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals that we may use on our lawns and in our gardens.  However there is another danger that we tend to overlook, and that mistake could prove harmful to our four-legged friends.  That danger comes from the mulch we use.

Most mulches won’t harm our pets, and usually pets aren’t attracted to the mulch we use anyway.  However, a mulch that is growing in popularity is one made from cocoa bean shells.  These shells are a by-product of the production of chocolate, and the mulch is especially popular for its attractive odor and color and eventual degradation into organic fertilizer.

Cocoa shell mulch, if eaten in large quantities by pets, can be toxic.  It is especially toxic to dogs, who are attracted to the sweet odor of the mulch.  The ASPCA warns that ingestion of large amounts of cocoa bean mulch may cause a variety of clinical signs, including:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • elevated heart rate
  • hyperactivity
  • muscle tremors
  • neurological disturbances

To avoid danger to family pets, nontoxic alternatives, such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark, should be used to beautify your yard.

If you suspect your pet has ingested cocoa shell mulch, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. For more potential pet hazards living on your lawn, go to

By: James Gindlesperger,