What is Mulch Poisoning?
Cocoa bean mulch has an attractive smell that makes the ingestion of the mulch an interesting prospect to many dogs. The danger of ingestion lies in the compounds theobromine and caffeine, which are also found in chocolate. These substances will poison a dog, leading to symptoms like tremors and vomiting.
Other types of mulch may be less toxic but still present risk of obstruction of the bowel and irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. Mold can also be found in mulch; the ingestion can mean that the tremorgenic mycotoxins contained in the mold may cause tremors and seizures. If your pet has access to your garden area and you suspect he has consumed mulch, bring him to the veterinarian to evaluate the toxic effects on the body.
Dog owners who have garden areas which are accessible to their pets should be made aware of the dangers of mulch. Cocoa bean mulch in particular causes toxicity in canines who ingest it; other types of mulch can present risks as well.
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Symptoms of Mulch Poisoning in Dogs
The symptoms observed in a dog who has consumed mulch can vary.
- Rapid breathing
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Increased heart beat
- Rise in body temperature
- High blood pressure
- Abdominal bloating
- Rapid heart rate
- Fluid accumulation in lungs
- Loss of appetite
- Refusal to lie down
- Inability to have a bowel movement
Some types of mulch are considered safer than others; mulch made from cedar, for example is a common alternative, however, ingestion could still involve a risk of mold or obstruction. Untreated wood chips, leaves, and pine needles are all used in the garden but if you have a pet who may ingest large amounts of any of these alternatives, they may not be ideal either due to gastrointestinal irritation or obstruction.
Causes of Mulch Poisoning in Dogs
Cocoa mulch poisoning may exhibit signs within 6 to 12 hours of ingestion
- Cocoa mulch contains caffeine and theobromine
- The methylxanthines in cocoa mulch are rapidly metabolized
- The central nervous system is affected
- Symptoms vary due to ingestion (20 mg/kg may produce mild signs of toxicity, 100 mg/kg can be lethal)
- Cedar mulch is known for repelling insects but may cause allergies or obstruction
- All types of mulch may contain mold
Diagnosis of Mulch Poisoning in Dogs
If you suspect that your pet has eaten cocoa mulch, or if you have any other type of mulch in your garden and you know that your pet has been consistently grazing on it, call your veterinarian for an appointment without delay. All risks associated with mulch toxicity can become serious. Do not wait for symptoms to appear. If possible, bring a sample of the mulch to the veterinarian clinic. Product packaging is always very helpful if available.
Testing will depend on the clinical signs that your pet is displaying when he arrives at the clinic. Any information you can provide will be important such as recent illnesses, toileting habits, appetite, and activity level. Standard tests will include blood tests to verify the function of the organs (kidney, liver, pancreas), and to provide baseline markers for electrolytes and enzymes levels which will be monitored throughout treatment. Blood tests can also reveal the possibility of underlying disease processes that could complicate the poisoning.
If the physical examination reveals a tender abdomen or the presence of a mass, imaging tools like x-rays and ultrasound may be recommended so the veterinarian can see if there is an obstruction.
Treatment of Mulch Poisoning in Dogs
Cocoa Mulch Poisoning
Stabilizing your dog will be key to the treatment. If he is having seizures, medication will be given to bring them under control. Gastric lavage will be done as opposed to inducing emesis if your pet is seizing. However, if he is not and the veterinary team feels that having your pet vomit is safe, this is the best option for eliminating cocoa mulch. Active charcoal will also be given to bind the remaining toxins together.
Intravenous therapy will provide additional fluids to assist in helping the body process and flush the toxins. Fluid therapy is also beneficial as the team works to balance enzymes and electrolytes.
Mold poisoning is very serious and death is not uncommon. As with the mulch poisoning, medication for seizures, gastric lavage, emesis, and fluid therapy will be administered. Due to the severity of the effects of mold on the body, treatment may need to span over a few days.
If the veterinarian has identified an abdominal obstruction in your pet, she will use medication, intravenous fluids, and an enema to see if the mass can be eliminated that way. If not, surgery to remove the obstruction may be necessary which can mean a hospital stay of a few days.
Recovery of Mulch Poisoning in Dogs
The possibility of recovery and the rate at which it happens will all depend on the amount of mulch ingested, the current health of your dog, and the length of time between the ingestion and the treatment protocol. Fortunately, most canines will fully recover from ingesting mulch. If mold is involved, the treatment may be more involved but records show that many cases have a positive resolution with prompt, aggressive veterinary treatment. Your veterinarian will want to see your pet within a week or two for a follow-up appointment.
Removing the mulch from your garden area may be wise unless you are able to prevent your dog from accessing this area. If you have a dog who loves to eat plants, soil, mulch or any other inappropriate items it is best to monitor him at all times when outdoors.
Mulch Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have a cocker spaniel who is very curious about any textured thing and mulch being one of them seems to be a fav. Three times in the past four months, my dog has snatched a few small pieces of mulch which has sent us to the vet due to extremely bloody stool, diarrhea and vomiting. The wood splinters when ingested irritates & scratches the innards as is passes through the digestive system and no telling what type of toxins are being release inside his poor gut as well. I have resorted to placing a muzzle on him to take a more aggressive means of protecting him from grabbing something like mulch that causes much harm. Hopefully he is on the mends again with antibiotics, bland diet & probiotic supplements.
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My dog has a huge edema like mass under his arm, near stomach and near his chest. He has had x rays for a mass like cancer but the radiologist has determined the mass is not cancer. His white blood cells are high. He is throwing up and has diarrhea. He is dehydrated and is at the vet on IV fluids. The don't know what the cause of the mass like/edema is. He is an outside dog and digs in the mulch constantly. He also hides his food in the mulch and then digs it up and eats it. We are wondering if this is a sign of mulch poisoning or mold in the mulch that he has ingested. The vet is unsure what is the cause and is just treating him to make him comfortable with IV and antibiotics. We aren't sure because cancer has been ruled out. The only thing we know for sure is that he has dug in the mulch, buried food in the mulch, and lays in the mulch. Any ideas? He is a 10 year old healthy male english pointer who normally weighs about 50 pounds, but has lost about 5-7 pounds from being sick.
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Hello- my dog has eaten pine bark mulch on two separate occasions in our back yard unknown to us he was eating it. Both times while eating it he has gone into seizures and convulsions that have lasted a few minutes. During thee first incident, we thought he was choking on mulch and preformed the Heimlich. The second time, he was found laying in the mulch have a seizure. We keep close eyes on him after the first incident, but now we are realizing he may not have choked at all the first time, but had a toxic reaction to eating the mulch. Could this be Tremorgenic mycotoxin intoxication from mold in the mulch. We are looking to have all the mulch in our yard removed (which is a large area to remove). We don't know why he is attracted to this mulch but we are worried he might die if it happens again. I've ready pine bark mulch is not poisonous to dog. Do you think it may be a mold within the mulch? Thank you!!!
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