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Is Coffee Bad for Dogs? What You Should Know

Is coffee bad for dogs? Yes—coffee, like other caffeinated drinks, can be harmful and potentially lethal to dogs and other household pets. 

Why would anyone want to feed their pooch with coffee in the first place? Well, being the closest friends to humans, dogs can accidentally lick or munch on coffee and other caffeinated substances. 

Since this ancient bond between humans and dogs seems unbreakable, you should get familiar with all there is to know about coffee toxicity in pets. 

Let’s get right to it. 

How Much Coffee Is Too Much for Dogs?

smiling woman with cup and dog

Like every other chemical substance in your cupboard, a certain level of caffeine concentration is associated with deadly symptoms. Leading veterinary researchers have found a limit of 150 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body mass to be lethal when ingested by dogs.

While caffeine-related deaths are significantly minimal to derive meaningful statistics, various cases of hospitalization and other secondary complications are widespread. However, you should not be overly concerned since effective remedies exist for DIY and professional intervention.

Either way, vets and pet enthusiasts recommend that you adopt safety best practices around homes to avoid caffeine poisoning. 

Potential Sources of Caffeine Poisoning in Your Home

dog on the window drinking coffee

Have you been tempted to tease your doggo with caffeinated substances or even alcoholic beverages? A majority of pet owners will answer this with a bold “yes.”

Still, most coffee poisoning in pets occurs accidentally rather than willingly or through blatant exposure by their humans. This trend is worsened by the presence of a wide variety of caffeinated food items in our homes. 

Apart from your ordinary coffee brews, caffeine toxins exist in unexpected areas. Hence, it would help if you prevent your dog from accessing caffeinated substances, including coffee pods, coffee beans, coffee grounds, chocolate, and choco-covered espresso beans.

Other notorious carriers of caffeine toxins are tea, tea bags, diet pills, energy drinks, weightlifters’ supplements, and sodas. 

You should also be cautious with these common sources of caffeine toxins in your homes: grapes, raisins, oven cleaners, dishwasher detergents, xylitol, alcohol, and wine beverages.

Despite the unsuspecting nature of these secondary caffeinated substances, reliable statistics indicate that they are responsible for a significant number of pet poisoning cases around the globe.

Why Is Coffee Toxic to Dogs but Safe for Humans?

A question that immediately pops up in everyone’s mind is: why are edible coffee substances poisonous to dogs?

girl drinking coffee at a river bank with her dog

Well, unlike humans, whose internal organs are relatively large, but dogs and other household pets do not have sufficiently enlarged organs to handle the extreme stimulating effects of caffeine. Specifically, coffee pods, beans, and grounds significantly alter the normal functioning of the heart and nervous system.

Hence, with their generally smaller organs, your pet can easily experience sickening effects by ingesting just small portions of caffeinated foodstuffs.

Fortunately, larger dog breeds like the “German Shepherds” and “Golden Retrievers” may not be easily overwhelmed by smaller coffee quantities. For smaller pooches like chihuahuas, few drops of brewed espresso can result in catastrophic side effects.

Due to this limited organ performance, you keep your dog from all caffeinated substances.

Too bad we can’t share the treasured coffee beverages with our furry friends, huh? Nonetheless, it’s a relief that, unlike their “addicted” human friends, these creatures are readily hyperactive and do not require such stimulants to keep them going.

How Do I Detect Caffeine Poisoning in My Dog?

Thanks to caffeine’s natural hyperactivity in dogs, you can easily detect poisoning in case of accidental ingestion or otherwise. 

Obvious signs to look out for include: diarrhea, vomiting, hyperactivity, panting, elevated heart rhythm, tremors and seizures, loss of muscle control and collapse, exaggerated thirst and urination, and death in extreme situations.

Ingestion of highly concentrated caffeine can result in medium to long-term damages to the dog’s internal organs. In very rare circumstances, these symptoms can lead to severe illnesses and even deaths if they are not looked into. 

Should I Contact a Vet in All Cases of Caffeine Poisoning? 

Should I contact a vet even in mild poisoning cases? The answer is yes. It is advisable to seek professional help in all cases to avert complications in the later stages of poisoning.

So, when you notice any of the above-listed symptoms or other abnormal activity in your dog, contact a licensed vet, or a dedicated helpline immediately. Ensure that you give an accurate description of the signs to the vet. This will help minimize complications in the subsequent stages of treatment.

Since such medium and long-term effects are not immediately detectable, you should seek proper intervention even after the initial signs have subsided. 

Long-term effects manifest internally in organs, including the heart, liver, kidneys, nerves, intestines, and blood system. 

Should I Provide First Aid to My Poisoned Dog? First Aid Tips 

First aid will help prevent further poisoning complications. So, you should do perform appropriate first aid action when you notice even the mildest symptoms of caffeine poisoning in your dog.

First Aid Tips: 

As it is true in nearly all cases of poisoning, it is advisable to induce vomiting to prevent further spread of the toxins into the blood vessels. However, you should not try this without the consent and direction of a professional since slight missteps could easily lead to secondary complications such as aspiration pneumonia.

Hydrogen peroxide has been certified by vets and poison control experts for use in inducing vomiting in pets. 

Should I Contact a Vet in All Cases of Caffeine Poisoning? 

While not all cases of caffeine poisoning need professional intervention, it’s always best that you contact a vet to seek a clean-bill-of-health clearance, even in mild intoxication instances.

Basically, a vet assesses the critical areas of the body to determine the presence (or absence) of life-threatening poisoning processes. This way, you ensure that unnoticed caffeine toxins do not find their way to the vital organs, including the heart, blood structure, liver, kidneys, eyes, intestines, and neurological system. 

This removes the anxiety, and you can go back to enjoying life with your canine friend.

Recommended Treatment for Poisoned Dogs—Long Term Remedy

So, your dog has ingested caffeinated toxins; you are anxious and don’t know their fate. Well, it is a relief that there are lots of effective remedies you can turn to.

However, the efficacy of these remedies is largely dependent on two variables: the amount of ingested caffeine and the time lapse between intoxication and first intervention. 

Recommended treatment methods include:

Intestinal Decontamination 

This method depends on the successful expulsion of all intestinal content. Decontamination is achieved through the gastric lavage procedure, which restores normalcy by thoroughly cleansing the entire digestive system.

Central Nervous System Restoration

This is done by injecting veterinary tranquilizers such as diazepam, phenobarbital, pentobarbital, and phenothiazines, among other brands. 

The vet can also administer isoflurane through inhalation. This is done in extreme cases where injectable tranquilizers do not stabilize your dog’s nervous system. 

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is used to suppress the absorption of caffeine toxins in the bloodstream. This is often done after the vomiting stage (induced or natural). Basically, it’s part of the overall process to minimize toxin spread by weakening the effect of caffeine residue in the intestines. 

You Should Keep These First Aid Materials in Your Homes

If you are a pet owner, here is a list of first aid supplies that shouldn’t be missing in your cupboard:

  • past medical records
  • first aid manual
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • activated charcoal
  • milk of magnesia
  • needless syringe
  • muzzle, leash, stretcher
  • digital thermometer 

Having these items nearby will make it easy for you to provide the much-needed first aid intervention. You also need to check your dog’s medical records to ensure that no conflicting therapeutic intervention is done even in such moments of high distress and anxiety.

Best Practices to Avoid Caffeine Poisoning in Dogs

Since you are not always on guard to prevent your doggo from ingesting caffeine and other toxins, you should have appropriate best practices in your living spaces. This way, you can minimize all cases of pet poisoning in your homes. 

Such best practices include:

Seal Access to Trash Area 

Keep the trash area out of reach to prevent them from scavenging for undesired toxins. You can barricade the trash area completely or install automatic locking garbage bins.

Train Your Dog

Train your dog to adopt safe eating practices. This way, you can control what the dogs eat or drink in your absence. 

Declutter Your Spaces

Declutter your living spaces to simplify management of food substances. That way, you can easily establish which items can be safely fed to the dogs without fear of triggering intoxication.

Final Thoughts

It’s unfortunate that coffee is something we can’t enjoy with our furry friends. Coffee and other caffeinated food items are toxic to dogs, so you should keep them away from these substances. In case of ingestion, follow the first aid tips we’ve mentioned above, and seek a vet’s help to make sure your dog is free from toxins. 

Krista Haws

Known among her friends as 'the caffeine fiend', Krista loves all things coffee. From an extremely short, strong espresso to a 3 day cold brew, Krista loves them all.

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