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Caffeine poisoning in dogs

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Caffeine is a crystalline compound present in tea and coffee plants. It serves as an added ingredient in various foods and medications to function as a stimulant for the central nervous system. While for humans, consuming caffeine on a daily dose is normal, it is crucial to note that for dogs, it is considered toxic. Caffeine is commonly found in coffee, tea, coffee grounds, tea bags, diet pills, and soda.

Caffeine toxicity in dogs occurs when dogs ingest caffeine, whether it is from coffee, other caffeinated substances, or chocolate. Given that caffeine acts as a stimulant for the central nervous system, immediately seek veterinary assistance if your pet has consumed caffeine.

Caffeine acts as a stimulant for the central nervous system, immediately seek veterinary assistance if your pet has consumed caffeine. (Photo from iStock | amenic181)

Why Do Dogs Drink Coffee?

“Dogs are curious beings. It is in their nature to smell, or lick various things. Occasionally, they may consume grass, rocks, toilet paper, and even exhibit the rather unappealing behavior of eating feces,” said Dr. Renee Burgin in “Caffeine and Dogs” published in the Pets United website.

Causes of Caffeine Poisoning in Dogs

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Caffeine poisoning in dogs results from ingesting a food item or medication containing caffeine. While mild effects may occur with the consumption of small amounts, the situation can escalate if a substantial portion is ingested – for instance, if your pet consumes both the coffee filter and its contents.

According to Burgin, the effects can be:

• Neurologic (for example seizures)

• Metabolic

• Gastrointestinal (vomiting)

• Pulmonary

• Cardiovascular (heart abnormalities)

What to Do if Your Dog Drinks Coffee

If you suspect that your dog has ingested coffee or coffee-related products such as beans or grounds, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Be prepared with information about your dog’s weight and the quantity of coffee they may have consumed.

Symptoms of Caffeine Poisoning

You can typically see signs of caffeine toxicity within 30 to 60 minutes of consumption. Symptoms can last anywhere between 12 hours to several days. You’ll need to monitor your dog for any of these symptoms:

• Agitation

• Restlessness

• Vomiting

• Panting

• Elevated heart rate

• Elevated blood pressure

• Abnormal heart rhythms

• Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)

In extreme situations, your dog may experience collapse, tremors, and seizures. Excessive caffeine intake can be fatal for your pet, but the lethal dose varies based on the size of your dog.

How Veterinarians Treat Caffeine Poisoning

Your vet might advise you to observe your dog for signs of caffeine poisoning and instruct you to contact them if the situation deteriorates. There’s a possibility they may suggest bringing your dog in for a thorough examination.

“If it’s within a few hours of the caffeine ingestion, the veterinarian might consider inducing vomiting to prevent further absorption of the substance,” said Burgin.

“It’s crucial never to attempt inducing vomiting without professional guidance. In some cases, activated charcoal may be administered to help eliminate toxins from the body without absorption into the bloodstream,” Burgin added.

Additionally, your vet might provide fluids to aid in flushing out caffeine or prescribe medications to manage symptoms such as elevated heart rates, tremors, and seizures.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Drinking Coffee

• While a small amount of brewed coffee might not pose an issue for larger dogs, it is advisable to never provide coffee in any form as a treat.

• While it can be enjoyable to treat your canine companion, providing them with human treats like chocolate can cause harm or even be fatal to them.

• Ensure that all caffeinated items such as coffee, coffee grounds, coffee beans, chocolate-covered espresso beans, and tea bags are stored off the ground and away from your dogs. After completing your morning coffee preparation, consistently place the pot and cup in a location that is not easily accessible, preventing the risk of it being knocked over and licked from the ground.

• When disposing of your coffee grounds, seal the trash bag securely and ensure it is entirely inaccessible to your dog.

• Encourage your children, family members, roommates, and guests to be mindful that coffee should be kept out of reach of your dog.

Recovery of Caffeine Poisoning in Dogs

The extent of recovery depends on the quantity of caffeine ingested. Untreated cases of caffeine poisoning, resulting in central nervous system complications like seizures or collapse, can be fatal for dogs. However, with prompt treatment, the prognosis is generally positive.

Following successful treatment, your veterinarian will provide detailed post-care instructions, which may include guidelines on administering medications, potential side effects to monitor, and other at-home care instructions. A follow-up appointment will be recommended for the veterinarian to assess your dog’s ongoing recovery.

About the Author: Niko Gabriel Salgado is a graduate of consular and diplomatic affairs from De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, and worked at the House of Representatives. He is now an entrepreneur and a volunteer of the animal welfare group Save Animals of Love and Light- Save ALL

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