No matter what the mulch is made from, if you suspect your dog has eaten mulch or you’ve witnessed them eating it, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Some types of mulch will present more danger to your dog’s health than others, but none are safe for your dog to ingest, and they could even be toxic.
You might wonder what makes mulch dangerous, especially as it can be made from many materials. We’ll discuss how mulch affects dogs and the worrying signs that indicate your pet has ingested it.
Mulch and the Risks
Mulch has a few functions in a garden, such as reducing weed growth, making a space more attractive, and retaining moisture on drier days. You might be familiar with some materials used to make mulch, like pine bark and wood shavings, but cocoa beans and rubber can also be used. If your dog is guilty of eating things they shouldn’t in the garden, like plants and grass, mulch might be too tempting. And even for a more obedient dog, it all might look and smell far too good to pass up.
Wood Shavings and Pine Bark
Mulch made of wood resembles small sticks that may attract your pup’s attention. However, wood mulch can have sharp points that might injure your dog’s mouth and throat or lead to choking when they try to swallow them. It could also result in stomach and bowel upset and obstructions.
Some may consider rubber a safe material, but if a dog eats it, it could cause a gastrointestinal obstruction. Chemicals left over on the rubber could also make your dog sick. In addition to the harmful effects on dogs, rubber mulch is less attractive than wood mulch and is less effective in retaining moisture.
Cocoa beans contain compounds like caffeine and theobromine, which are found in chocolate and poisonous to your dog. There is a high risk of your dog eating the mulch since the cocoa beans will smell good, resulting in symptoms like tremors and vomiting.
Pine needles are generally picked because they look good, but they can easily get trapped in your dog’s paws and end up being ingested when they try to lick their paws clean. The needles can damage the mouth, throat, and stomach lining and sometimes lead to allergic reactions, skin wounds and irritation.
Are There Safe Alternatives?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a definitive answer to this question because it depends on your dog and how likely they are to eat something they shouldn’t. Sawdust can be safe from specific trees, like cypress and cedar, but inhaling it might cause irritation, sneezing, and respiratory signs in some dogs. Rocks and stones can also be an option because most dogs don’t tend to eat them, but there are always exceptions. If your dog is very curious and known to swallow things they shouldn’t, you should supervise them in the garden to make sure they are not eating mulch.
However, all mulch is potentially dangerous because it can contain pesticides or molds that are toxic when ingested. Some mulch contains mycotoxins, such as penitrem A and roquefortine, which are harmful substances produced by certain molds. When ingested, they can cause diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, and death. Mulch made of wood shavings or pine needles can also contain a very small amount of essential oils, which might cause allergic reactions due to contact with the skin, or if ingested in large quantities, can lead to an upset stomach and weakness. When it comes to mulch, puppies and small dogs are at greater risk.
The Signs of Mulch Poisoning
If you witness your dog eating mulch, don’t wait for signs of an adverse reaction to develop; take them to the vet immediately. However, if you haven’t witnessed them eating it, you may notice these signs:
- Abdominal bloating/pain
- Straining to pass feces or diarrhea, depending on the amount and type of mulch
- Hyperactivity and/or restlessness, often in the beginning
- Increased heartbeat
- Increased thirst
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid breathing
- Depression and lethargy as the illness progresses
- Rise in body temperature
While it’s very rare, a severe case can be fatal. The sooner you get your dog to the vet, the better. Some mulch types are more dangerous than others, but they can all cause an obstruction or contain mold that poses another health risk to your dog.
Recovering From Mulch Poisoning
Most dogs, thankfully, make a full recovery after eating mulch with adequate treatment from their vet. However, the recovery speed will vary depending on a few things, like your dog’s overall health, how much your dog ate, and how much time had passed between ingestion and treatment.
It’s also helpful to bring the product packaging or a mulch sample to the veterinarian’s clinic, which will help determine its composition.
Recovery will also depend on if this is the first time this has happened or not. So, your best option is to get rid of the mulch if you can’t trust your dog around it. If removing it isn’t an option, there are other ways to keep your dog safe, such as:
- Create an efficient barrier between the garden and mulch
- Spray mulch with a pet-safe and vet approved deterrent so it isn’t as appealing
- Supervise your dog at all times when they’re outside
- Train your dog to stay away from items they shouldn’t be eating, like plants, mulch, and soil
- Use toys and training to distract your dog when they’re outside
While mulch isn’t safe, most dogs fully recover after ingesting it. It’s essential to seek medical attention as you see your pet eating mulch, and the rate of recovery will depend on a few factors, like the overall health of your dog and how much mulch they ate. If you think there’s a risk your dog could eat some mulch again, it’s worth removing it from your garden or at least keeping your dog away from it in the future.