Can I Give My Dog Coffee?
Adulthood means one thing: coffee. Once we reach the age when we have to worry about things like jobs, college, kids, a mortgage, and politics, we lean heavily on coffee. Some days, it’s the most compelling reason to leave the warm comfort of our beds and face all the stress that the day has to offer. Buying someone a cup of coffee is the best way to express your affection and love. It also happens to be the best way to bribe them into doing you a favor—like, say, washing the dishes. We love coffee, and we’re inclined to share it with those we love the most.
For pet owners, “those we love the most” includes our canine companions. While we realize that we probably shouldn’t give our dogs the fancy, high-sugar, high-fat coffee beverages we sometimes buy from coffee shops, we may be tempted to treat our beloved pets to a teacup full of lightly sweetened coffee. But is this a good idea? Can dogs have coffee?
The answer may surprise you: no, dogs can’t drink coffee. While dogs can tolerate small amounts of many foods that are not necessarily ‘recommended’ for them (think of junk foods like vanilla cupcakes, pretzels, and white bread), coffee is a completely different story—drinking this beverage can do quite a bit of harm. Coffee is extremely high in caffeine. Though we crave caffeine to help us get through a long day, our pets can’t tolerate this stimulant nearly as well as we can. Your dog should not consume any amount of coffee. If they somehow get ahold of a significant amount of coffee while you aren’t looking, they should go to the vet’s office immediately.
Risks of Giving Your Dog Coffee
There are a handful of studies circulating which suggest there may be some small health benefit to coffee for us humans, but this is not the case for our pets. When it comes to dogs and hydration, the only acceptable beverage is water. Pure water is the most hydrating beverage for your dog—it gets the job done, it’s free of harmful and addictive substances like caffeine, and it doesn’t have any calories, so it won’t lead to weight gain.
There is no reason to give your dog any sort of coffee beverage, even if it is decaffeinated or heavily diluted with sweeteners and milks. Many creamers and flavorings are nearly as dangerous to our dogs as the caffeine content. To make matters worse, a lot of these dessert coffee beverages are flavored with chocolate, which is also poisonous to dogs. The safest drink for your dog is water.
Even if you cut out all the extra sweeteners, dairy or alternative milks, and whipped cream, coffee is in no way suitable for your pet. The high levels of caffeine can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms—some of which can even be life threatening. While people have to drink a lot of caffeine to suffer from the adverse effects of overdose, dogs can begin to have trouble after consuming a relatively small amount of the stimulant. This threshold is even lower for smaller dog breeds. As a general rule, the smaller the dog, the less caffeine they can safely consume.
Things to Keep in Mind?
What can happen to dogs who drink too much coffee? Since caffeine is a stimulant, the symptoms of poisoning are slightly different than other toxic foods. Dogs who consume too much caffeine may first experience vomiting and diarrhea as their body tries to purge the toxic substance. From there, symptoms may escalate to trembling, muscle tremors, heavy or labored breathing, accelerated heart rate, fever, high blood pressure, fainting, anxiety, and other behavioral changes. Dogs may become fearful or aggressive. In severe cases, dogs who drink a substantial amount of caffeine will suffer from seizures. Left untreated, caffeine overdose can be fatal.
As with all types of poisoning, seeking treatment as soon as possible greatly improves your dog’s prognosis. There is no antidote to caffeine overdose, but your veterinarian will probably induce vomiting, and they may administer activated charcoal to help prevent further absorption. If your dog’s symptoms are severe, your vet may prescribe medications to stop seizures or lower blood pressure. Severe symptoms may also require sedatives and an overnight stay.
In conclusion, your dog should never drink coffee—whether it’s black or loaded with cream and sugar. Dessert coffees are full of fat and sugar, which can cause diabetes, pancreatitis, and weight gain. Black coffee is toxic due to its high caffeine content. While lapping a couple drops of coffee off the floor will not likely harm your dog, letting them drink an entire cup very well may result in life-threatening caffeine overdose. To keep your dog safe, it’s best to stick with giving them water for hydration. Your dog doesn’t need to drink anything else!