Is Mulch Safe For Dogs?

If you’re a gardener and a dog owner, you know that there’s always a never-ending struggle between finding mulch that best suits your yard while also providing a safe and fun environment for your four-legged friend. So, is there a mulch that’s safe for dogs?

Many kinds of mulch, including wood and cocoa mulch, are very dangerous to dogs due to the toxicity of the materials used. Consumption could cause an intestinal blockage or other medical issues. Cedar, pine, and hemlock mulch are non-toxic, but a dog could still choke on the pieces.

Now that we know the dangers mulch poses to our furry companions, let’s get into the details and learn what to do if they eat too much mulch. We’ll also check out some of the best dog-friendly alternatives to mulch.

Is Mulch Safe for Dogs?

Long-coated chihuahua standing in garden

Most people laud mulch for its ability to ensure plants’ health and serve as a great finishing touch in their gardens. However, it poses significant risks to the health of our dogs.

Certain types of mulch are dangerous for dogs, so you should familiarize yourself with them before deciding on the best type of mulch for your yard. Black mulch has been a major cause for concern among dog owners and other pet owners in general lately.

That said, there’s no proof that a specific color is worse for your dog when compared to others, and mulch comes in many different colors. The color of black mulch is obtained from a dye. The colorant is made using carbon black dye, which isn’t harmful to dogs.

The toxicity of mulch isn’t determined by its color but rather by the material used to make it in the factory. Some plant elements are more toxic to dogs than others, but they can be dyed in any color to improve their visual appeal.

Wood mulch is made from wood that no longer serves a purpose in other areas like construction work. As a result, the mulch consists of various recycled materials that could contain toxic chemicals.

Wood can be treated using chemicals like Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) to lengthen its life. These chemicals do the opposite for your dog’s lifespan. Before using wood mulch, be sure to investigate its source.

The Dangers of Cocoa Mulch 

Another type of mulch that you need to watch out for is cocoa mulch. Cocoa mulch is made from cocoa bean shells removed when making chocolate. The severe health complications that chocolate brings to dogs are well-known, and cocoa mulch is no different. 

If your dog consumes cocoa mulch, they could suffer from theobromine poisoning, leading to cardiac irregularities, seizures, severe organ damage, and even death. So if you’re a dog owner, avoid cocoa mulch.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Too Much Mulch

If your dog eats a tiny bite of mulch, they’ll probably be fine. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep an eye on your dog for any alarming symptoms that may develop afterwards.

You should also check their mouth for any injuries to the gums, teeth, and back of the throat.

If your dog eats a huge chunk of mulch, it could result in an intestinal blockage, which is a serious medical emergency. The mulch gets stuck in the dog’s intestines and blocks it. Water and food won’t pass through, and your poor pup may not be able to poop, either.

If your dog ate a bunch of mulch, or you suspect they did, and you’re worried about it, you should call the nearest emergency vet clinic that you can and explain to them over the phone what your situation in, then follow their recommendations.

Symptoms of an Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

You may observe these symptoms if your dog has ingested an enormous amount of mulch:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal swelling and pain
  • Loss of appetite

If you suspect or know that your dog has eaten too much mulch and they display any of these symptoms, you need to call the vet immediately!

How to Prevent Dogs From Eating Mulch

You can prevent your dog from eating mulch by replacing the wood mulch in your yard with rubber mulch.

Rubber mulch is made from recycled tires. It’s an excellent eco-friendly alternative to wood mulch for use in gardening, and it lasts longer than wood mulch.

Will your dog be able to tell the difference between a chew toy and a rubber mulch?

Yes, your pup should be able to differentiate the two. Rubber mulch is the same size as the traditional wood mulch but smaller than the average dog toy. Your dog won’t find it satisfying enough to nibble on such a small item.

Types of Mulch That Are Safe for Dogs 

large dog Alabai and her puppy are lying on sawdust

For a dog owner, cedar, pine and hemlock mulches are great alternatives to wood or cocoa mulch because they don’t contain any toxic chemicals. However, always remember that dogs can choke on any type mulch if left unsupervised.

As we mentioned above, rubber mulch is also considered safe for dogs, although concerns have been raised about the harmful chemicals it could contain and the major concern: choking.

Dog-Friendly Alternatives to Mulch

Sometimes mulch isn’t a good fit for a yard where your dog will play. Here are some dog-friendly alternatives for mulch that would go well with your yard:


Shredded newspapers can hold moisture in the soil for plants to use and keep the ground cool when it’s too hot or warm when it’s cold. They even help keep weeds out of your garden.

Shredded newspapers are not the most beautiful option, but they can be great substitutes for mulch, especially if your dog is an aggressive chewer. If your dog happens to eat the newspaper, they should be completely fine.

Grass Clippings

You can use grass clippings if you’ve never treated them with herbicides. They are safe when laid on the ground where your dog plays. Dry out the grass clippings before spreading them as a mulch alternative in your yard. 

Non-Toxic Leaves

Shredded leaves are a good alternative to mulch as long as they’re not toxic to your dog. Before using leaves from a certain tree, find out more about the tree.

As long as you’ve got the green light to use the leaves, you can collect, dry, and spread them on your yard as mulch. They can be an affordable substitute for mulch that creates a comfortable and safe environment for your dog.

Hay or Straw

Hay and straw aren’t commonly used as alternatives to mulch, but they can come in handy, especially around pets. They are rough-textured, making them hard for dogs to consume, and the dogs can still digest them if they do decide to have a taste.

Straw and hay are relatively affordable and easy to install over large areas. They are also organic and decompose quickly, adding important nutrients to the soil.

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