We’ve all been there. Just a moment of inattention and the next thing you know you turn to find your furry companion eating off your dish or lapping something out of your cup. You suddenly find yourself wondering in a panic, “My goodness! Is it even safe for my dog to eat that?!” The good news is, with a few exceptions (Grapes, Chocolate, Chicken Bones) most things that are ok for humans, are good for dogs.
So which list is coffee on exactly? Well, it can potentially be a serious situation, but if your pooch just lapped up a couple of sip you probably don’t have to worry too much. Chances are your little buddy will be just fine but with that said, you should monitor them for a little while just to make sure they aren’t suffering any adverse effects described below.
The first question you must ask yourself is how big your dog is. Some studies have found that lethal caffeine levels for dogs is typically around 150 mg per kg (2.2 lbs) so your dog’s size will have a huge impact on how much coffee will pose a problem. This is actually very similar to the lethal threshold for humans but given the humans are usually heavier than even the biggest dogs, the problem is compounded in canines.
Next, we’ll need to determine whether your dog had a couple of sips of brewed coffee, or an energy drink; or whether they managed to get into a bag of coffee beans, coffee grounds, or worse yet, caffeine containing supplement pills.
Signs of Caffeine Poisoning
The signs of caffeine poisoning are pretty much exactly what you’d expect them to be and will present within a couple of hours. Your dog may appear fidgety, may display signs of restlessness, and may even present with tremors, increased heart-rate, or vomiting. In extremely serious cases, seizures may ensue. Other signs to watch out for include extreme thirst, increased body temperature, excessive panting, excessive urination, and diarrhea. If you’re dog starts to display serious signs of caffeine poisoning beyond a little extra excitement, you should consult with your veterinarian immediately.
Methylxanthine and Its Effect on Dogs
Another exacerbating factor is the presence of Methylxanthine, this is the same substance that makes chocolate unsafe for our furry friends. Methylxanthine can wreak havoc with a dog, affecting their cardiovascular system as well as their central nervous system and GI tract. In the most severe cases it can speed up the heart rate to a point where it can be fatal.
On the less severe part of the scale, Methylxanthine irritates your dog’s gastrointestinal track causing discomfort, flatulence, and diarrhea. Methylxanthine is very quickly absorbed through the GI track and gets metabolized in the liver at which point it undergoes a process known as enterohepatic recirculation. This essentially means the substance are put back into circulation in the blood stream, rather than being removed from the body.
Finally, it can interfere with the central nervous system by disturbing the delicate chemical balance needed to function properly. This works by inhibiting Adenosine receptors causing the central nervous system to become overstimulated; which in turn can cause the vasoconstriction and tachycardia we mentioned above.
The optimal treatment will obviously be highly dependant on the severity of the coffee poisoning. If you’re little buddy is just a little excitable try to keep them well hydrated and comfortable, they should be just fine once it passes out of their system.
The more severe cases will follow a standard triage system. The doctor’s first priority will be to stabilize your dog if they are in immediate distress. This may include sedating them, installing an IV, and administering drugs in cases of seizures or irregular heartbeats. They will likely also closely monitor their body temperature and may install a catheter.
Once the animal is stable, or assuming they haven’t begun to show signs yet, the vet will turn his focus to getting any lingering caffeine or Methylxanthine out of your friend’s system. This may be done via gastric lavage, by inducing vomiting, or by repeated courses of activated charcoal. In the worst cases, symptoms have been known to persist for up to 72 hours during which your dog will need to be closely monitored by professionals.
As a long time dog lover, my hope is that you only ended up here out of cautious curiosity. I wish you and your furry friend the very best of luck. Watch over them, they truly are man’s best friend!