Nov
5
2003

This dog finds the cocoa bean mulch a tasty treat. But the mulch is a health hazard to animals. Photo courtesy of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

Some common household products can smell like sweet treats to your pet, but can be deadly when consumed. Antifreeze and certain landscaping mulch are two such products.

Homeowners are finding mulch made from cocoa bean shells desirable because it degrades into an organic fertilizer and provides an attractive color and odor.

Unfortunately, dogs are finding the mulch appealing to their taste buds, sometimes eating large quantities.

According to a recent case study published by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, dogs eating cocoa bean mulch may develop methylxanthine toxicosis and could show signs of vomiting and muscle tremors.

“Since the data confirms that dogs can exhibit certain clinical effects after consuming cocoa bean shell mulch fertilizer, the ASPCA advises pet owners that they should avoid using this fertilizer around unsupervised dogs, and dogs with indiscriminate eating habits,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, senior vice president of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, in a statement.

Thousands of pets are accidentally poisoned each year from ingesting antifreeze, reports the Doris Day Animal League, and the organization is supporting a bill – H.R. 1563 – that may help prevent such tragedies.

Antifreeze has a sweet smell and taste that attracts pets, as well as children. Even in small amounts – as little as a teaspoon – can be fatal. But H.R. 1563 would require a bittering agent called denatonium benzoate be added to antifreeze in an effort to deter consumption.

California and Oregon state laws already require a bittering agent in antifreeze. Reps. Gary Ackerman (D, NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA) are hoping to see the law enacted nationwide.

Between July 1995 and December 1997, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center consulted on 510 cases of animal exposure to ethylene glycol antifreeze; 98 percent of the 579 animals involved were dogs and cats. In those cases tracked, illness or death occurred in 24 percent of the cases involving dogs and in 46 percent of the cases involving cats.

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