What Can Happen If Your Dog Drinks Coffee?

A strong shot of coffee might be what you need to start your day, but it can wreak havoc with your dog's health if you allow him to join you in a cup. The natural stimulant in coffee that gets you going is poisonous to dogs. What could happen to your dog if he drinks coffee depends on his size and how much he drinks. Contact your vet immediately for treatment instructions.

Caffeine is the Culprit

Caffeine is the substance in coffee that makes it dangerous to your dog. It is a type of methylxanthine that's naturally found in cacao seeds that are the part of the plant that coffee comes from, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That means all forms of coffee should be off-limits to your dog including brewed coffee, beans and grounds. Additionally, because chocolate also contains methylxanthines, chocolate-covered espresso beans should be avoided.

What Happens

The Pet Poison Helpline says that one or two laps won't have enough caffeine to harm most dogs but, if you have a small breed dog such as a Chihuahua, even a couple of sips can affect him. Within one to two hours of ingesting coffee symptoms will begin showing such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Panting
  • Extreme thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Increased body temperature
  • Restlessness
  • Mild to extreme hyperactivity
  • Tremors

Other, more severe signs of caffeine poisoning include abnormal heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, seizures and possibly death.

Act Quickly

If you catch your dog sneaking a drink of your coffee or any other foods that are poisonous to him, don't wait for the symptoms to start showing. Consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet. She'll want to know how much coffee your dog drank and might need to look at his chart to get an idea of what he weighs. Depending on the severity of the situation, she may walk you through inducing vomiting or instruct you to give your dog activated charcoal to absorb the caffeine from his stomach. In more serious circumstances, your vet will have you bring your dog to the clinic so that she can monitor his organ function and give him intravenous fluids to help flush the caffeine from his system.