Is Mulch Bad for Dogs?

Written by toni owen
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Is Mulch Bad for Dogs?
Wood chips are a popular mulch that dogs enjoy walking on. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Mulch is material spread on the ground in garden beds to retard weeds, retain moisture and improve appearance. Mulch can be cedar chips, crushed gravel, newspaper or last year's chopped-up grass, straw or leaves.

Canines will eat almost anything. They become ill if they munch on mulch that contains pesticide or herbicide residue or bacteria or viruses, or if they walk on it and then lick their paws or fur.

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Garden mulch is either ground-up or composted material from your yard and kitchen or packaged in bags from commercial suppliers. Any organic mulch such as straw, leaves or compost may carry bacteria or viruses. Cocoa mulch from the shell of cocoa beans contains theobromine that kills dogs in the same way chocolate is lethal to canines. Use only brands labelled pet safe.

Check the label on commercial mulch and buy if it is sterile or sanitised by heat to kill toxins. Although more expensive than home-made mulch, it is a better choice for gardens around homes that have dogs.

Public Areas

Dog parks use mulch to prevent mud and provide good footing, but the mulch can carry infectious diseases like the parvo virus, the leading killer of young dogs. Keep young dogs away from public areas, especially dog parks with mulch, until they complete their parvo vaccinations at 4 months. After that, keep your dog from eating or walking on mulch in public areas like parks and gardens. These areas are often sprayed for insect pests or weeds. These chemicals penetrate the mulch and can poison your dog.


Dogs and cats that roam unsupervised may eat things contaminated by toxins produced by bacteria. Symptoms include severe gastrointestinal upset, bloody diarrhoea and vomiting, fever, abdominal pain and malaise. Treat mild cases with bismuth subsalicylate, but if symptoms last more than two days, see a veterinarian because severely affected animals can go into shock and die.

If you suspect poisoning within the previous hour, give the dog Ipecac syrup or ¼ to 1 cup hydrogen peroxide or salty lukewarm water to induce vomiting. If they have ingested a petroleum-based pesticide that could burn the oesophagus on the way up, call a veterinarian immediately.


Use sterilised organic mulch like peat moss, clean straw or crushed gravel at home. Don't put grass or plant debris that has been treated with herbicides or pesticides in your compost pile or use it in your garden. Use a fixed leash to restrain your dog from walking on or resting in mulched areas when in public areas.

Is Mulch Bad for Dogs?
Keep your dog away from mulched areas in public places. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

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