Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | June 24, 2008

Dangers of Mulch for Dogs

Buddy - Author of Week

Buddy - Author of Week

Dear SCHS Pet Column,

I have a friend whose dog just died from eating mulch.  Why would a dog do that and have you heard of other similar cases?  Sincerely, Miffed About Mulch.

Dear Miffed, your inquiry provides a good opportunity to expose two summer dangers to dogs.  Indeed a specific kind of mulch is one, while the other involves specific summer weeds.  Let’s begin with the sweet-smelling, but potentially harmful cocoa bean mulch. Made of cocoa bean shells and considered desirable for its eventual degradation into organic fertilizer, this product can be toxic to canines if eaten in large quantities—and some dogs have been known to do just that.

In 2007, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) handled 26 cases of cocoa bean mulch ingestion. “Dogs are attracted to the fertilizer’s sweet smell,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, ASPCA Veterinary Toxicologist and APCC Director, “but like chocolate, cocoa bean mulch can be too much for our canine companions.”

 “One key point to remember is that some dogs, particularly those with indiscriminate eating habits, can be attracted to any organic matter,” says Dana Farbman, APCC Senior Manager, Professional Communications. “Therefore, if you have a dog with such eating habits, it’s important that you don’t leave him unsupervised or allow him into areas where such materials are being used.”

ASPCA recommends that to avoid contact, pet parents should consider a nontoxic alternative, such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark. These will keep your pooch—and your garden—healthy.

As for dangerous weeds, later in the summer as the seeds of drying foxtail weed grasses detach from the plant they like to attach to clothing and animal hair. They can easily become lodged between a dogs toes, in its ears, and in its eyes. Since the seeds are barbed like a fish hook, they can be very difficult to remove. Once embedded, foxtail seeds can cause severe infections and abscesses anywhere on an animal’s body.

In addition to causing pain and localized infections, foxtail seeds can migrate and lodge in the spine, in the lungs and in other internal organs. They enter through the nose, ears, paws, eyes, urethra or just through the skin and travel through the body.  The seeds are very small, making locating them a painful, difficult and expensive procedure. Depending on where a foxtail seed has traveled to inside a dog, it can even be life threatening and will require prompt surgical removal.

For prevention remove foxtail weeds from your yard, examine your pet daily – feeling for any raised areas on its skin particularly under its ears, between the toes, under the armpits and in the groin area. If you suspect a foxtail seed has lodged under your dogs skin get it to a veterinarian.  Waiting can only make the seed harder to find, allow it to migrate and become more dangerous, and make treatment more difficult.


As a handsome long-haired canine here at the Second Chance shelter, I am hoping that the family that adopts me takes the above precautions to keep me healthy and safe. I don’t think this is too much to ask, for in return you will receive a fabulous companion.  I am simply as good natured as they come and haven’t met a person, dog, or other creature that I couldn’t bring out the best in.  Come visit the shelter today and ask for “Buddy”.


Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet or learn about SCHS Spay/Neuter Vouchers, Volunteer & Foster Care and other Programs.  Visit to see our adoptable pets.  Responses to Pet Columns can be sent to:






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