Friday, May 21, 2010

Hoaxes and Partial Truths

A Vet Tech friend forwarded the following article (which lost it's formatting when I uploaded it, sorry). Although I'd heard about the dangers of cocoa bean mulch, and also that the whole thing was a hoax, I decided to pass this article on as it has lots of good information. I also did an internet search on cocoa bean mulch hoaxes, with pretty mixed results. Hoax, partially true, false. Sounds as if it would take a fair amount of the product to cause any symptoms in the "average" dog, but there is still reason for concernm and it's amazing what our dogs sometimes ingest! Although I love the smell of the stuff (anything that smells like chocolate appeals to me!), and would like to use something that repells slugs, guess I'll pass on it for now. Apparently it is now possible to purchased the mulch with the theobromine removed - sounds like a better option.

Warning: Cocoa Mulch Toxicity
Dr. Donna J. Spector, 4/22/10
As spring and summer approach, many people begin tending to their lawns and gardens. Many will consider using cocoa bean mulch as a natural, chemical-free fertilizer. This mulch is made from the shells of spent cocoa beans used in chocolate production. It degrades into an organic fertilizer which naturally deters slugs, snails and other pests, while giving gardens a very attractive rich color and appealing chocolate smell. Unfortunately these same characteristics may make it appealing to dogs, who can be easily poisoned from its toxic effects.
Cocoa bean shells and mulch contain the stimulants theobromine and caffeine; methylxanthines which are both toxic to dogs. Dogs are highly sensitive to methylxanthines and low doses can cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Higher doses can cause rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and even death.
The following chart indicates the signs that could be expected in a 50-pound dog eating different quantities of cocoa bean mulch:
2 ounces
Stomach upset

4.5 ounces
Increased heart rate

5.5 ounces

> 9 ounces

This is compared to a 50-pound dog eating milk chocolate (found in most candies):
<7.5 ounces
Often no signs

>7.5 ounces
Stomach upset

>16 ounces
Increased heart rate

These differences exist due to the concentration of methylxanthines in each product. Cocoa bean mulch contains between 300-1200mg of theobromine per ounce while milk chocolate contains approximately 50mg of theobromine per ounce. However, if you suspect your dog has gotten into ANY type of chocolate, contact your veterinarian for immediate advice.

As a pet owner, it is advisable to use less toxic, pet-friendly alternatives such as shredded pine or cedar bark in landscaping projects. Prevent dogs from wandering unsupervised into other landscaped yards to avoid unintentional poisoning. If you suspect your dog has eaten cocoa mulch or any other toxic substance, seek veterinary attention immediately. Prompt action by your veterinarian can save your dog’s life.
Dog owner alert: common spring and summer toxicities
Signs include stomach upset and/or obstruction

Insecticides/pesticides (sprays, granules, mole/gopher/rat baits)
Signs vary from stomach upset to life-threatening bleeding and seizures.

Slug and snail bait (contains metaldehyde)
Signs include anxiety, muscle tremors, seizures or death.

Certain food waste can be toxic to pets (caffeine, certain fruits, mold, etc)

Toxic plants (sago palm, azalea, foxglove, rhododendron, mushrooms, etc)
Signs vary with plant species but can cause general stomach upset to liver and heart failure.

Signs include stomach upset

Grapes and raisins
Signs include stomach upset and kidney failure

Macadamia nuts
Signs include stomach upset, weakness and muscle tremors

Antifreeze (contains ethylene glycol)
Signs include stomach upset, seizures, kidney failure, and death.