Cocoa Bean Mulch Poisoning in Dogs and Cats
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith

Cocoa bean shell mulchToxin
Theobromine, caffeine

Cocoa mulch used for landscaping. Cocoa bean shell mulch products have an attractive odor and smell, and some dogs will eagerly eat large amounts of the mulch.

General Information
Caffeine and theobromine have an effect on animals similar to that on people. They increase the breathing and heart rate, sometimes causing irregular beating of the heart. They cause restlessness because of the changes at the cellular level with calcium and energy sources. Caffeine also directly stimulates the myocardium and central nervous system.

Toxic Dose
Symptoms occur with the ingestion of 45 mg of theobromine per pound of body weight. Theobromine deaths have been reported after ingestion of 52 mg per pound of body weight. Cocoa bean mulch contains 0.19%-2.98% theobromine (54 - 847 mg/oz). In comparison, milk chocolate contains 44 mg/oz. and unsweetened baking chocolate contains 390 mg/oz.

Caffeine is toxic at about 63 mg per pound of body weight.

Common signs include vomiting, diarrhea, panting, hyperactivity, restlessness, ataxia, muscle tremors, increased or decreased heart rate, irregular heart rhythm, increased body temperature. Seizures, coma, or death may occur. Less frequent symptoms include abdominal pain and blood in the urine.

Immediate Action
Induce vomiting and seek veterinary attention.

Veterinary Care
General treatment: The induction of vomiting may be continued, gastric lavage is performed, and activated charcoal is administered.

Supportive treatment: IV fluids are given to prevent dehydration and to induce urine production. The heart rate and rhythm are monitored, and medications are given if necessary. The animal is monitored and treated for hyperthermia. Seizures are treated. The urinary bladder may need to be catheterized to prevent reabsorption of the toxin.

Specific treatment: Unavailable.

Usually recover with hospitalization and aggressive therapy. May be fatal if enough of the toxin is absorbed.

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