Guest Author - Debra Kelly
Caffeine: what would we do without it? It gets us up and going in the morning, it clear our minds and pushes away the sleeps. Countless people couldn't get going in the morning without that first cup of coffee, and some aren't seen without a cup of coffee from morning to night. But what makes us functional, non-cranky human beings can be dangerous to our dogs (and cats.)
Caffeine is poisonous to both cats and dogs, and can be fatal if enough is ingested. Even if an owner is aware that their dog has gotten into something, there's no way to truly counteract the poisonous effects of caffeine. Depending on how much your dog gets into, the effects can range from mild illness to death; to be safe, keep them away from it completely. The smaller the dog the less he'll be able to tolerate, and there is no such thing as too safe.
Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks and even diet pills can contain dangerous amounts of caffeine; they can also be tempting treats with their fragrant and interesting aromas. Be careful not only about letting your pet get his nose into your cup, but dispose of tea bags and coffee grounds where he can't get ahold of them; it's not unheard of for small dogs to die after ingesting only a single tea bag or a mouthful of grounds.
Caffeine has similar effects on dogs as it does in humans, on a grander scale. In even the smallest doses it can cause elevated blood pressure and heart rate, hyperactivity and alertness, and restless behavior. The more that is ingested, the greater the effects; enough caffeine can lead to seizures, an abnormal heartbeat, vomiting and full-body tremors. More sensitive to the effects of caffeine than we are, dogs and cats are extremely vulnerable to this everyday substance found in most homes.
The effects usually manifest themselves quickly, within an hour or two of ingestion. Even a small amount (relative to the size of the dog) warrants a trip to the vet. Here, the dog may be administered fluids to help flush out his system, or heart medications or sedatives to help counteract the hyperactivity and cardiac effects of the drug. Severe effects like seizures may be able to be managed with professional medical attention, and while there is no cure-all this will give your dog the best chance at recovering from the poisoning.
While coffee and energy drinks might be the first substances that come to mind, remember that there are a number of common household substances that contain enough caffeine to be harmful if not deadly to your dog. Chocolate, dangerous on its own, also contains enough caffeine to warrant extra attention - especially during the holidays. Painkillers and cold medicines should never be given to dogs and always be kept out of reach, their caffeine content making them even more dangerous. Candy bars, ice cream and other snacks can also potentially contain this deadly drug.
So when you pour your morning cup of coffee, be sure to keep it well out of reach.