Is Mulch Safe for Dogs to Eat?

Mulch can tidy up a garden bed, prevent weeds and help retain moisture. But is it safe for your dog?

You may be thinking about mulching your garden paths or flower beds to tidy up the look and prevent weeds. Mulching is a great way to retain moisture during warm, dry days. But is mulch safe for your dog?

The overarching answer is no. Mulch can be made from many different materials, from cedar shavings to newspaper to rubber. One dog may eat it and be fine, but another might become seriously ill from the same type of mulch. It’s risky to allow a dog to eat mulch of any type, but certain mulches are even more problematic (and dangerous):

They See Sticks

Mulch with large shreds or chunks of wood might attract dogs as much as that stick you throw for them. It smells good and feels good to chew. But the larger and sharper pieces of mulch can damage your dog’s throat and can cause bowel or stomach obstructions, leading to an emergency trip to the veterinarian.

Chocolate in the Garden

The earthy smell of mulch can be appealing to dogs — it can make them want to munch, and that could cause problems. Mulch made from cocoa bean shells smells delicious to humans and dogs, but it can contain toxic compounds (theobromine and caffeine) that could harm your dog. Thankfully, cases of mulch toxicity in dogs are rare, and the attractive smell starts to disappear after a few good rain showers.

Toxic Mold

Mulches of any type could contain pesticides or molds that could be toxic to your dog if eaten. Cocoa bean mulch is susceptible to mold, and other mulch types may contain molds such as penitrem A and roquefortine that could cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors or seizures. A more severe toxic reaction could even be fatal.

What to Do

Some dogs will eat anything, so no mulch is completely safe. It’s best to supervise your dog and prevent it from eating any amount of mulch, no matter the type. If you think your dog has eaten mulch, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 855-764-7661.

Rosie Wolf Williams
Rosie Wolf Williams is a Vermont-based writer with credits in business profiles, veterinary and agriculture, natural health, general interest, automotive, hardware, DIY, innovation and trends. Her work has appeared in USA Weekend, Energy Times, Costco Connection, Next Avenue, and many other local and national publications. She is the author of "The Thought of You: The Art of Being Alive!" and is an award-winning speaker.