Coffee and Other Caffeine Dangers for Dogs

Estimated Reading Time 3 minutes
Coffee and Other Caffeine Dangers for Dogs

Products containing caffeine are in essentially every household. But that doesn’t mean they’re safe foods for dogs to eat. In this article, we’ll explain what types of caffeinated foods your pet must avoid and what to do if they show signs of caffeine toxicity.

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What types of caffeinated foods are toxic to dogs?

Essentially any product containing caffeine should be avoided, but pay close attention to these items:

  • coffee
  • tea
  • sodas
  • energy drinks
  • chocolates
  • diet pills
  • chocolate covered coffee beans

While we might need a cup or three of coffee to get going in the morning, your pet does not!

What makes caffeine harmful to dogs?

Caffeine and theobromine are types of methylxanthines. Caffeine is a stimulant and so is theobromine, which is found in chocolates.

If dogs ingest 9mg per pound of bodyweight of caffeine or theobromine, they can develop clinical symptoms. Symptoms get more severe at doses of 18mg per pound of body weight. Since most teas and coffees are much lower than this in caffeine, if your pet steals a sip/lick out of your drink, they will probably be OK.

It’s the tasty chocolate, diet pills, or NoDos type pills that have higher levels of theobromine or caffeine present and can cause severe illness with low levels of ingestion. Dark and baker’s chocolate are the worst with the highest levels present.

Can dogs have decaf coffee or tea?

Even when a drink is labeled as decaf or decaffeinated, it still contains some amount of caffeine. This means that it can still exert stimulant effects on a dog’s major organ systems. Because of this, you should avoid giving your dog decaf coffee or tea.

Clinical Symptoms of Caffeine Toxicity in Dogs

Upon ingestion, caffeine in coffee or tea is readily absorbed from the dog’s gastrointestinal tract and distributed throughout the body via blood circulation.

In the liver, caffeine is metabolized and recycled. It’s excreted in urine as metabolites. The half-life of caffeine in dogs is 4.5 hours.2

Most of the signs associated with caffeine toxicity in dogs are associated with the stimulant effects on various systems of the body. The following toxic symptoms are usually exhibited within 1-2 hours after ingestion of coffee or tea.

  • Rapid heart rate (dogs should have a resting heart rate of 120 beats per minute or less)
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (times of rapid, then slowing heartbeats or missed heartbeats)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased vocalization
  • Death
  • Pancreatitis if the ingested item is also high in sugar

What should I do if my dog ate food containing caffeine?

The treatment is aimed at reducing the effects of caffeine on the dog’s cardiovascular and central nervous systems. The treatment protocol will depend on how severe your dog’s condition is.

If your pet ingested a caffeine-containing product or chocolate and you’re unsure how much, what type, or when it occurred, it’s best to bring your pet into the vet immediately. Your vet can safely induce vomiting and perform a complete exam, listen to the heart, check the blood pressure, and treat any symptoms that may be present. Be sure to bring any package labels, candy wrappers, and pill bottles with you so they can get a better idea of what was eaten and how much toxin may have been ingested.

Caffeine and theobromine can take DAYS to be fully eliminated from the system, so removing as much as possible via vomiting, giving medications to absorb remaining toxins, and possibly giving your pet IV fluids to help them “flush out their system” and urinate often will help and can be lifesaving! You should never induce vomiting without any advice from your veterinarian. Aspiration pneumonia is a potential risk if induced vomiting is done incorrectly.

Your pet may also need medications to reduce their blood pressure, control seizures and tremors, reduce nausea and diarrhea, and keep them calm.

Read more:

What foods are toxic to dogs?

The Truth About Onion and Garlic Toxicity in Dogs

An Update on Grape and Raisin Toxicity in Dogs

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding caffeine poisoning in dogs or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

Published: 11/14/2020
Last updated: 4/6/2022

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