Most responsible pet owners will be aware that many foods considered healthy for humans are not necessarily healthy for animals.
Humans have different dietary requirements from other animals that commonly live alongside us and it is usually not a good idea to share our meals with them.
Dogs are one of the most commonly kept pets in the world and they can become beloved members of many families. The problem is, dogs are notorious for tasting – and gobbling up – anything they come across, whether they are supposed to or not.
Here we ask the question, can dogs drink coffee? – and we will discuss what you need to do if your furry friend manages to guzzle down your brew while you’re not looking.
Is coffee bad for dogs?
The answer is a resounding YES. Under no circumstances should dogs ever be given coffee. The caffeine in it is highly toxic to them and coffee also contains other substances which are harmful to dogs’ health.
If you are reading this article in a panic because your dog has just drunk your coffee while your back was turned, please scroll down to the bottom of the article for a list of symptoms and advice on what to do.
For those who are not sure about the effects of caffeine on dogs, please check out this disturbing video. We’re sure you don’t want your dogs to end up behaving like this.
Why is coffee bad for dogs?
Having established that giving coffee to dogs is a very bad idea, let’s have a look at why this is so.
For dogs, the most dangerous substance in coffee is caffeine. Dogs are much less able to metabolize this compound than humans and this makes them more susceptible to the effects of even small doses.
Coupled with this is the fact that most dogs are much smaller than people. With the exception of a few giant breeds, even the largest domestic dogs generally weigh considerably less than their human owners.
This means the doses they may inadvertently ingest may be very large for their body mass.
Coffee also contains another substance called theobromine. This is the substance that makes chocolate poisonous for dogs, something most dog owners are aware of.
Finally, less serious but also significant is coffee’s diuretic effect. Drinking coffee increases the need to urinate, which may lead to dehydration.
Check out this video of someone explaining in more detail why coffee is a bad idea for dogs.
How much coffee is dangerous to dogs?
Coffee can be dangerous to dogs in even small doses. A couple of laps of coffee from your cup is probably not going to do very much, even to the smallest of dogs, but if they manage to consume more than this, you will need to monitor them carefully for an adverse reaction.
The toxicity of caffeine is related to the size of the dog. For the smallest breeds, even a very small dose can be problematic.
It is generally thought that the lethal dose of caffeine in dogs is about 150mg per 1kg (2.2lbs) of body mass. To put this into perspective, an 8oz Americano from Starbucks contains 75mg of caffeine.
To ingest a lethal dose of caffeine, a dog would need to drink two 8oz Starbucks Americanos for every kilogram of their body mass to receive a lethal dose. The good news here is that it is highly unlikely that any dog would ever be able to do this.
However, the symptoms of caffeine toxicity appear at much lower doses, so it is still highly recommended that you do not share your brew with your canine friends.
For small dogs, even as little as 1/3 of a cup can cause a reaction, and for dogs, being “high” on caffeine is not a fun experience.
Imagine the nervous, edgy feeling you have when you drink too much coffee; for dogs, it is the same but multiplied – and they don’t understand why it is happening.
Check out this video to see the effects of drinking just a little coffee on some small dogs. Some people might think it looks cute, but it’s not something a responsible dog-lover would want to repeat.
Dogs eating beans or grounds
A much more serious situation may arise if a dog manages to get at your supply of coffee beans. As we mentioned, dogs are well-known for their predilection for tasting, chewing and eating anything they come across.
If they find your coffee beans, they may well decide it seems like a tasty snack, and they have no idea how potentially life-threatening it could be.
Coffee beans contain caffeine in much more concentrated doses than in brewed coffee. One single arabica coffee bean contains about 6mg of caffeine (robusta beans contain roughly twice this amount).
To calculate, this means that only 25 arabica beans per kilogram of body mass (or 12.5 robusta beans) is a lethal dose for a dog. When stated like this, it is easy to see why a dog eating coffee beans is a much more serious situation.
The same is true of ground coffee since coffee grounds also contain high concentrations of caffeine. The situation is much worse if you discover that your pet has been eating chocolate-covered beans – as we said before, chocolate is also highly toxic for canines.
It is worth pointing out at this point that the same is true in cats; since domestic cats generally weigh only a few kilograms, a small amount of coffee would be all that is necessary to provide a fatal dose.
If you are still in any doubt over the toxicity of caffeine in pets, there is at least one recorded case of a man who was suspected of deliberately killing his German shepherd by feeding it meat laced with caffeine. This demonstrates just how dangerous the substance can be (1).
Can dogs drink decaf?
Again, no, for two reasons. First, remember that “decaffeinated” coffee does not mean “caffeine free” coffee. Decaf still contains caffeine, albeit in much smaller amounts than in regular coffee.
Second, as we mentioned earlier, coffee also contains theobromine, a well-known harmful substance for dogs.
In short, avoid giving coffee of any kind to your pets!
What about other products?
Since caffeine is, for dogs, the most poisonous substance found in coffee, there are also a number of other common drinks you should not allow your pets to consume. One example would be tea, although a cup of tea contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee.
Much more serious would be if your pet starts swallowing whole tea bags since more caffeine is present in the leaves – you should take steps to avoid this possibility.
Many sodas, especially colas, are known to contain caffeine, so you should also refrain from allowing your dog to consume them. These kinds of drinks are usually also carbonated and high in sugar, making them doubly bad for your dog’s health.
Another type of drink to avoid giving your dog is energy drinks, and for obvious reasons. These drinks contain high levels of caffeine as well as other stimulants and are likely to be extremely harmful to your pet.
Serious problems can also arise if a dog manages to eat pills containing caffeine. Many diet pills include caffeine as an appetite inhibitor, and your dog would only need to swallow a few to receive a potentially harmful dose. Make sure you store your medication out of your pets’ reach.
Symptoms of caffeine poisoning in dogs
Symptoms of caffeine ingestion may arise 1-2 hours after consumption. In particular, look out for the following symptoms:
In higher doses, pets may also experience the following:
What to do in the event of caffeine poisoning
If you suspect your dog of having ingested a smaller dose of caffeine, you should monitor carefully over the next few hours for any signs of these symptoms. If in any doubt, call your vet for advice.
If your dog begins displaying any of these symptoms, you should call your vet. If the symptoms are particularly acute or if your dog displays symptoms of a higher dose, you should take your pet to the vet immediately.
If in any doubt, seek professional help. There is no antidote for caffeine poisoning, but a vet may be able to do something to help save your dog. Be in no doubt, ingestion of caffeine in dogs or cats may result in a life or death situation, and only relatively small doses are required.
Best to avoid giving coffee or caffeine to your pets at all costs
The best advice is to make sure your dogs or cats never go anywhere near caffeine. We humans love a hot brew, and for millions, a caffeine hit is a vital part of the morning routine. However, this is not the case for our furry friends, and coffee or caffeine may seriously harm or even kill them.
Do you have a story about pets and coffee? What happened? Did your dog drink your coffee or get at your beans? Tell us your story as we always love hearing from you – and if you found this article useful, please don’t forget to share!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Daily Cupo, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.