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Caffeine poisoning in dogs is the result of dogs ingesting caffeine, whether it be from coffee or other caffeinated substances, or chocolate.

Caffeine is a crystalline compound found in the plants of tea and coffee. It is also an added ingredient in many food items and medications to act as a stimulant of the central nervous system.

Dogs are the most frequently intoxicated species due to their indiscriminate eating habits. Any age or breed of dog can be affected.

It turns out our dogs react in much the same way we do. Caffeine makes them restless. They get jittery and their hearts start to race. But because our pets weigh so much less than we do, it only takes a relatively small amount of caffeine to cause a big problem, potentially leading to expensive hospitalization or even death.

If pets do ingest caffeine, it can take just 30 minutes to an hour to reach peak concentrations in their bloodstream and cause signs of clinical toxicity.

Size Matters

Symptoms will depend on the size of the animal and the amount of caffeine consumed. 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.

Small dogs like Chihuahuas are especially at risk of caffeine poisoning because of their lower body weight. The toxins enter a small dog’s system more quickly.

If your dog eats coffee grounds and shows any of these symptoms of toxicity, you need to call your vet or poison helpline right away. If you are in Nigeria, there are no recognized poison helplines. You can also rush your pet down to a hospital, preferably a public teaching hospital in your location.

Common Sources of Caffeine

Pet owners may not realize that caffeine can be harmful to their pets. They also may not know that many foods and drinks in their cupboards contain caffeine. Caffeine is most commonly found in coffee, coffee grounds, tea, used tea bags.

Types of substances that contain caffeine besides coffee and tea are:

  • Protein bars
  • Energy drinks
  • Chocolate bars
  • Sodas
  • Diet pills
  • Ice cream that contains chocolate
  • Yogurt that contains cocoa
  • Hot chocolate

Signs of Caffeine Poisoning in Dogs

If your dog has only ingested a small amount of caffeine, you might notice they seem hyperactive or weird.

However within 1-2 hours of severe exposure, you may notice:

  • Mild to severe hyperactivity
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Hypertension (elevated blood pressure)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Tremors
  • Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

Treatment of Caffeine Poisoning in Dogs

As with all poisoning cases, early intervention is key to successful treatment. Call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline as soon as you realize your pet has consumed caffeine. Your pet’s Veterinarian may induce vomiting to help remove the toxin from the system before it is absorbed and may also give activated charcoal to minimize absorption of any remaining toxin from the gastrointestinal tract.

For severe cases, your pet may be kept under observation in the hospital for some few days. Medications may be needed to treat muscle tremors and seizures, lower blood pressure, and to stabilize an irregular heartbeat.

Supportive therapy with intravenous fluids will prevent dehydration which may concurrently occur secondary to vomiting, diarrhea, and the diuretic effects of caffeine. Intravenous fluids can also help the body to excrete caffeine as well as support kidney function.


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