A cat sniffs a cup of coffee, which contains caffeine.

Can Dogs and Cats Have Caffeine?

According to the Mayo Clinic, here’s how much caffeine you’ll find in an eight-ounce serving of everyday beverages:

Even decaffeinated teas and coffees aren’t totally caffeine-free. The Mayo Clinic notes that the average cup of “decaf” still includes around 2 milligrams of the substance. While that’s a negligible amount for most people, anyone who’s especially sensitive to caffeine or trying to abstain altogether should keep that fact in mind when ordering their next decaf latte or pouring another cup of Sanka.

Is Caffeine Safe for Pets?

Caffeine affects people in different ways. Some folks can’t imagine a workday without several cups of joe, but others opt for decaf or avoid caffeinated beverages altogether. Though personal tolerance varies, 400mg is generally considered a safe daily dose for most adults. Just a fraction of that amount would be deadly for a dog or cat.

Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro warns pet owners that “Cats and dogs should not ingest any caffeine.” The Cornell University professor notes that adverse side effects typically begin when a pet ingests 14 mg of caffeine per pound of body weight. More serious and potentially deadly reactions can occur after doses of 23 to 27 mg per pound.

Keeping Pets Away from Caffeine

It’s not just sips from your tea or coffee cup that you need to watch out for. Pets can also poison themselves by ingesting unbrewed coffee beans or tea bags, as well as grounds, filters, and bags they’ve found in the garbage. Keep pets away from countertops, close cupboards and pantries, and securely attach lids to all trash cans. These simple precautions go a long way in keeping curiosity from getting the better of pets.

Numerous over-the-counter medications also provide heavy doses of caffeine. These include weight-loss drugs, alertness aids, and even treatments for severe headaches. While poisoning from liquid caffeine is relatively rare (especially for large pets), just a few of these tablets could be deadly. Never leave pill bottles or loose medication within reach of unsupervised pets.

Signs of Toxicity in Pets

Even your best efforts aren’t always enough to keep cats and dogs out of trouble. With so many potential hazards hiding throughout the average home, it’s important to recognize the signs of caffeine ingestion:

In most cases, symptoms begin to arise within an hour of consumption. Seek emergency veterinary care if your pet exhibits any of these warning signs.

Treating Toxicity in Pets

Timely action is everything when it comes to helping pets overcome caffeine poisoning. If dogs or cats are brought in for emergency care immediately, veterinarians may be able to induce vomiting and cease the absorption of caffeine. In more severe or advanced cases, intravenous therapy can help to flush out your pet’s system. Treatment may take as long as 48 hours, but is typically successful when it starts early.

As with all types of poisoning, preventing caffeine toxicity is always preferable to treating it. Check out PetPlace’s guides to keeping dogs and cats safe from common poisonous substances.