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My Dog Ate Coffee Grounds – Our Vet Explains What To Do

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By Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

coffee beans and grounds

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Written by

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

BVM BVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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While many of us enjoy a good cup of coffee, the caffeine found in coffee (as well as certain chocolates and other drinks) is one of the many human foods that dogs cannot tolerate. Since a dog’s metabolism differs from ours, many common human foods are actually toxic to them. The most common being grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chocolate, Xylitol (sweetener), alcohol, and, you guessed it, caffeine!

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Is Coffee Dangerous to Dogs?

Coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant. While we may need this to give us a kick start in the mornings, your canine friend most likely already wakes with a spring in their step and a wag in their tail! Dogs are much more sensitive to the effects of caffeine.

Remember, caffeine is a hidden ingredient in plenty of other common foodstuffs. As well as being found in coffee, it is found in tea, cola/soda drinks, energy or sports drinks, chocolate, candy bars, and diet pills (to name a few).

How Much Coffee is Dangerous to Dogs?

Caffeine is more poisonous to dogs that are elderly or have underlying problems. Smaller dogs will also struggle with small amounts of caffeine whereas larger dogs do not. A medium-sized dog that ate enough coffee grounds to make an espresso is likely to experience symptoms—just a couple of teaspoons worth. Smaller dogs can die from eating as little as 1–2 diet pills.

What Are the Symptoms of Dogs That Ate Coffee Grounds?

The symptoms of caffeine toxicity will depend on the amount eaten or drunk and the size of your dog. A couple of laps of tea or coffee would be unlikely to cause much harm to most dogs, especially if they’re large. However, every dog reacts differently to caffeine, so you should always seek advice from a veterinarian to be sure.

Coffee grounds are much more concentrated than tea leaves, so if your dog ate coffee grounds it is likely to cause problems. Coffee grounds and other high-caffeine foodstuffs can even be fatal to dogs. If your dog has eaten some coffee beans, chewed on a coffee pod or K-cup, or even licked some coffee grounds, you should contact your veterinary clinic for advice immediately. This advice is the same if they have eaten any caffeinated foodstuff such as energy drinks, candy bars, human medication, or diet pills.

Symptoms usually come on within 1–2 hours of ingestion and are usually related to the fact that caffeine is a stimulant. Symptoms include:

  • Hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • An elevated body temperature
  • An increase in blood pressure (hypertension)
  • An increased heart rate (tachycardia) and/or an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
choco lab
Image Credit: jklugiewicz, Pixabay

My Dog Ate Coffee Grounds – What Should I Do?

  • Firstly, stay calm! Granted, this is easier said than done.
  • Stop your dog from eating anything else containing caffeine.
  • Note down what your dog has eaten or drunk and, if you can, work out how much. If you have the ingredients to hand, make a note of these too. You’ll also need to guess when your dog ate the caffeine and observe whether they’re showing any symptoms.
  • Call your veterinary clinic, or the nearest open veterinary clinic, which may be an emergency service. You’ll need to give them as much information as possible about your dog’s size, age, weight, symptoms, and what he ate.
  • Follow your vet’s instructions. They’re the best person to evaluate the risk and recommend courses of action to you. If you can’t afford the suggested treatment, feel free to ask your vet if there are any other suitable options for treatment for your pet.

My Dog Ate Coffee Grounds – What Will the Treatment Be?

If you are able to get to a veterinarian within 2 hours of your dog eating coffee grounds then your veterinarian will give them an injection to make them vomit. However, they will only do this if your dog is showing no or mild symptoms. This is why prompt action is so important; there is only a small window of time for your veterinarian to successfully make your dog sick.

If more than 2 hours have passed, or your dog is showing symptoms, then it may not be appropriate to make them vomit. Always trust your veterinarian to weigh up the risk-benefit of this.

Please note that you should never attempt to make your dog vomit at home without seeking veterinary advice. A lot of home remedies for making a dog sick can actually be harmful. Plus, your dog may breathe in the vomit, which can damage their lungs and cause more harm. Some toxic substances can also burn the esophagus (food pipe) on the way back up. Making a dog vomit should only ever be done by, or under the care of, a veterinarian.

Whether your dog has been sick, your veterinarian will likely admit them for observation and to administer activated charcoal. This is a substance that helps absorb any caffeine still in your dog’s guts and prevents it from getting into the bloodstream. Your dog may be given this by mouth every few hours. Please note that activated charcoal is not the same as charcoal, which can be harmful to your dog!

Your veterinarian may also place your dog on a drip, as this helps your dog’s kidneys to do their job and excrete any remaining caffeine via their urine. Your veterinarian will likely want to take a few blood samples as well to check electrolytes and for any internal damage.

veterinarian examining a sick Rhodesian ridgeback dog
Image Credit: Zontica, Shutterstock

My Dog Ate Coffee Grounds – Is There an Antidote?

Sadly, there is no antidote for caffeine, so if your dog is showing symptoms, your veterinarian can only give medications to control the symptoms. These could include anti-seizure medication, tranquilizers, drugs to reduce blood pressure, and drugs to control fast heart rate or abnormal heart rhythms.

Your dog will need to be treated until all the symptoms resolve, and the caffeine has gone from your dog’s system, which can take up to 72 hours.

My Dog Ate Coffee Grounds- Could It Be Fatal?

Sadly, yes, caffeine can be fatal to dogs. Thankfully, though, the average lethal dose of caffeine for dogs is fairly high. However, all dogs react differently and so a wide range of fatal doses have been reported. On top of this, smaller doses can still make your canine friend very unwell. It is possible for your dog to make a full recovery with prompt treatment. However, depending on the amount eaten, this is sadly not always the case.

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What Should You Do If Your Dog Eats Coffee Grounds?

Our take-home message is to phone your veterinarian! That way, they can help you assess the danger and decide if treatment is needed. As always, prevention is best! Keep all caffeine-containing products (coffee pods, K-cups, chocolate, candy bars, etc.) well out of the reach of investigative snouts!

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Featured Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

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