By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
While mulch serves a variety of functions in the home garden, mulch application issues, like mulch toxic to dogs, need to be addressed for the safety of your precious pets before they occur. Generally, mulch poses little threat to cats, though it can become a haven for use as a litter box. Dogs, on the other hand, often chew on some types of mulch, which can become dangerous. Keep reading more about mulch and pet safety so you can avoid any problems later down the road.
Mulch and Pet Safety
Mulch serves many purposes in the home landscape. It adds an attractive touch to flower beds, provides protection for plants, and helps keep the soil moist. Mulch comes in many different forms and colors depending on your budget and needs.
However, if you are a pet owner, particularly an owner of a curious dog, it is essential that you pick your mulch carefully. This is especially important for pets that spend a fair amount of time unsupervised outside. Pet owners should always use a product that is labeled as pet safe mulch.
Is Mulch Toxic to Dogs?
Mulch made from cocoa shells is known as cocoa bean mulch, and it is particularly toxic to dogs. Homeowners with dogs should stay clear of this type of mulch and seek a less toxic alternative. While others types of mulch may not necessarily be toxic, they can also be dangerous.
Why Dogs Eat Mulch?
Dogs are chewers by nature, especially young puppies. Dogs will sometimes chew on wood because they are lacking in nutrients, but mostly it is out of boredom or curiosity that they end up in the mulch. If possible, keep your dog contained to an area of the yard where you do not have any mulch and be careful when you take your dog out to public areas that have mulch.
Types of Mulch Safe for Pets
Pine, cedar, and hemlock mulches are good alternatives to cocoa bean mulch if you have pets. However, keep in mind that dogs can choke on mulch and must still be supervised. This is especially true with pine needle mulch, as the pine needles can actually puncture the stomach lining if ingested.
Some dogs and cats may exhibit symptoms of allergic reaction to certain types of mulch. Signs that your pet may be suffering from an allergic reaction include rash, pus filled bumps, excessive itching and irritability. If you suspect that your pet has had an allergic reaction from mulch, it is imperative that you seek medical attention immediately.
What About Rubber Mulch?
Rubber mulch is considered safe for pets, although some concern has been expressed in the past about the chemicals it may contain. The chief concern with rubber mulch is the same as other hardwood mulches, choking.
Tips for Mulch Application Issues When You Have Pets
If you have pets and are considering using mulch in your yard, speak to a veterinarian about the risks involved with your pet and certain types of mulch. It is always best to get a professional opinion before proceeding.