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Is Mulch Safe for Dogs? (Plus 5 Reasons They Eat It)

Is Mulch Safe for Dogs? (Plus 5 Reasons They Eat It)

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Mulch is an excellent addition to your garden or landscape as it enhances its aesthetic appeal. It also supports plant growth by providing insulation, maintaining soil moisture, and preventing weed growth.

On top of that, it helps with flood or erosion control, too.

Since mulch is usually made with organic matter like shredded tree bark, which makes it an eye candy for curious pets.

In fact, it’s pretty common for dogs to eat mulch. With that, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s safe for dogs to munch on.

After thorough research, I’ve found that mulch is a potential health hazard for pets, especially for tiny dogs. There are also underlying medical conditions that may influence dogs to eat mulch.

Read on to learn the risks of eating mulch on pets and the different ways to keep your pets from eating it.

Can Dogs Eat Mulch?

The answer is a resounding no, and if your dogs have a strange habit of eating mulch, it’s best to stop them immediately.

Mulch may seem harmless, but it can be dangerous to your furry pets, especially when ingested. Truth be told, certain types of mulch can be toxic to dogs.

Apart from that, mulch may contain pesticides or fertilizers that are known for their toxic properties.

Why Do Dogs Eat Mulch?

Pets persistently eating non-food items is a condition called pica, and there are several reasons why dogs exhibit such practices.

This can either be due to an underlying medical condition or other factors that I’ll further detail below:

1 – Curiosity

Due to their extremely curious nature, dogs may eat mulch because they may be drawn to its scent and texture.

Mulch has a pretty interesting scent, especially ones made with tree bark. It has a pleasant woody or earthy scent that draws the attention of dogs who love to sniff around and explore.

They’re visually appealing due to their different colors and textures, too.

2 – Nutritional Deficiency

When dogs develop a habit of eating mulch, it can be a telltale sign that they’re not getting enough vitamins and minerals from their diet.

It can also be due to parasitism, where intestinal worms compete with nutrient absorption and compromise your dog’s health.

3 – Behavioral Problems

Dogs may engage with this practice due to behavioral changes like boredom, depression, or anxiety.

Sometimes, they may chew mulch just because they love its feel in the mouth or because they’re experiencing anxiety.

Anxiety can be evident with pets often left alone at home or those who’ve experienced abuse or neglect.

4 – Extreme Hunger

Always feed your fur friends on time, as they may eat mulch out of hunger. If you leave the house often, ensure to leave behind someone responsible to give them food.

5 – Underlying Medical Conditions

Medical conditions like iron deficiency anemia, liver diseases, and pancreatic disorders can be why dogs eat mulch.

If you suspect such diseases to be causing your dog’s unusual eating habits, it’s essential to note other symptoms, too.

For instance, with anemia, dogs may experience weight loss, fast breathing, and pale gums. Also, note that these problems may be more frequent for senior dogs.

Is Mulch Toxic to Dogs?

While there are varieties that are marked safe for pets, there are also some that contain toxic substances.

However, even if mulch is considered safe and not lethal, it can still cause obstruction or allergic reactions.

What Are the Dangers and Effects of Eating Mulch on Dogs?

Immediate concerns with dogs eating mulch are broken teeth and choking. Dogs may also suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in appetite.

Aside from those, they may also experience adverse health reactions that may lead to complications. Here are some of the risks associated with ingesting mulch:

1 – Indigestion and Gastrointestinal Obstruction

If ingested in large quantities, mulch can accumulate in the stomach or intestines and create a mass or blockage.

This blockage may cause extreme pain and discomfort or, worse, may require surgical intervention.

2 – Poisoning

Mulch is made from various materials and chemicals, some of which are highly toxic for dogs.

Substances from commercial fertilizers and pesticides (which contain significant doses of toxic chemicals and carcinogens) can be lethal, too.

3 – Bacterial Infections and Parasitism

Organic mulch and the soil underneath can be a breeding ground for certain bacteria and parasites, especially if contaminated with animal feces.

That way, dogs can contract hookworms upon ingestion or contact with contaminated mulch. Hookworms are known to cause weight loss and anemia in pets.

4 – Bowel Movement Difficulty

Your furry pets may produce little to no stool even after straining to pass it out.

If you observe your pet experiencing this recurring problem, this could be the most likely cause. It occurs as an effect of gastrointestinal obstruction as well.

What Mulch Is Safe for Dogs?

It’s always best to opt for mulch specifically labeled safe for pets or those known to be free from harmful chemicals.

Upon purchase, look for labels like ones from the Mulch and Soil Council (MSC) to ensure that the mulch adheres to safety standards and is free from pesticides.

The label also indicates that the mulch is free from poisonous components in treated wood.

That said, mulch from natural tree bark like shredded pine, cypress, and cedar are excellent options.

At the same time, these options are dog-friendly because of their brownish colors that aren’t appealing to curious pets.

What Mulch Is Bad for Dogs?

Not all organic or shredded wood mulch is safe for dogs, and the types you should always keep an eye out for are those made from recycled wood, dyed wood shreds, and cocoa mulch.

First, mulch manufactured from cocoa beans is potentially lethal to dogs.

We all know that chocolates or cocoa products contain toxins that impact the respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems of canines.

This toxin is known as theobromine, and it can kill dogs within days after ingestion.

On the other hand, dyed wood mulch and those made with recycled wood shouldn’t belong on your list. With their interesting colors, dyed mulch becomes an instant target for dogs, so it’s best to avoid them.

Mulch made from recycled wood shreds is a no-no, too. This type of mulch is sourced from commercial wood pieces known to contain poisonous chemicals like arsenic.

How to Keep My Dogs From Eating Mulch

You can keep dogs out of your mulch by using physical barriers, applying pet repellents on mulch, and using positive reinforcements.

By using reward mechanisms, you can encourage your dogs to stay out of your mulch.

For example, call them out whenever they come near the mulch and give them belly rubs or treats when they follow.

What Can I Spray on Mulch to Keep Dogs Out?

Did you know that there are readily available items at home you can use to deter pets away from your mulch? You’ll find these inexpensive but safe options in your kitchen or pantry!

One of my favorite homemade pet-repellent solutions is citrus sprays (from lemons or oranges), which effectively keep furry friends away from mulch.

Dogs loathe the smell of citrus, and a light spray of a 1:1 citrus and water solution can go a long way.

You can also use citrus essential oils. Spray lightly (just enough to leave a scent) because heavy amounts are slightly toxic to dogs.

As an alternative, replace citrus with vinegar or an over-the-counter pet-repellent spray.

What to Do When My Dogs Eat Mulch?

The first thing to do is attempt to remove the mulch from your dog’s mouth and monitor them closely after they’ve eaten the mulch.

You should also note any symptoms (like vomiting or diarrhea) and signs of discomfort, as well as behavioral changes.

Immediately see your local vet if you note any strange symptoms or behavior for further guidance.

Final Thoughts

Dogs eat mulch for various reasons, including nutrition deficiency, behavioral problems, and underlying medical conditions like anemia. They may also ingest mulch for no particular reason since some mulch variants have an appealing color and scent.

That said, eating mulch can lead to broken teeth, choking, and poisoning if not addressed immediately. That’s why you should only opt for MSC-labeled mulch and avoid those made with cocoa or recycled wood.

Meanwhile, using natural citrus or vinegar spray is effective in keeping dogs away from your mulch.


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