My dog ate coffee grounds. What to do?

Picture of a woman petting her dog while drinking coffee

As much as humans love our coffee, not all foods and drinks that we enjoy are safe for our pets. There are plenty of snacks and beverages that our furry friends shouldn’t consume, but they may not all be obvious to us. Take, for instance, coffee grounds.

Coffee grounds are dangerous to dogs due to their caffeine content. Caffeine is considered toxic to dogs and can induce uncomfortable symptoms that will have your pet feeling quite ill. Unfortunately, at high enough levels it can even be fatal. While we can never predict an accident like this happening, we can be prepared and know what to look out for should it occur. By knowing what to expect, you can handle the situation calmly and correctly, and give your pet the best chance at a full recovery.

Caffeine toxicity in pets

If you’re anything like me, your household goes through a lot of coffee grounds. The worst part about making coffee is the waste afterward. Whether you prefer brewed coffee, espresso, or coffee pods, these all have to be disposed of in one way or another. Coffee grounds are so easy to spill and you might not think much of it if they fall onto the floor… until now!

Thankfully, my pups aren’t dumpster divers, but they do have a habit of licking any crumbs they can find off of the floor. So if your four-legged friends could double as vacuum cleaners or have a real penchant for digging into your garbage, you’ll want to know what to do in case you found them to have ingested coffee grounds or other caffeinated products.

The effect of caffeine on your pooch varies greatly based on their size. This chart is a fantastic resource to get a sense of how much caffeine your dog (or cat) would have to ingest in order to feel its toxic effects. It even lists out other products with caffeine in them, as well as the amount of decaffeinated coffee that could have your pet feeling sick. Just keep in mind, there are other factors that could cause your dog to be more sensitive to caffeine than the chart suggests, including age and other medical conditions.

Symptoms of caffeine toxicity

It is important to know the signs of caffeine toxicity in your pet. If your pet doesn’t exhibit any of these symptoms after consuming coffee grounds, be sure to still keep a close eye on them to see if any symptoms develop. Here’s what to look out for:

● Hyperactivity, meaning your dog is more excitable than usual or displaying an excessive amount of energy

● Vomiting and diarrhea, both of which are dangerous, as they can cause dehydration

● Tremors, or uncontrollable shaking

● Heart rhythm problems, which are more likely to be noticed by a veterinarian

● Seizures, which can look different in each dog, but are typically characterized by convulsions

● Collapse, which would entail your dog going limp while running, walking, standing, or even lying down

What to do if your dog has consumed coffee grounds

It’s a terrible feeling to realize that your pet has consumed something that could be harmful to them. The steps you take next are critical to ensure they are given the best treatment possible.

Even if your dog isn’t showing any signs or symptoms, it’s recommended that you contact a veterinarian immediately. Gather all the information you can before calling and be prepared to answer questions about your pet. 

If you’re calling your regular veterinarian, it may be quicker to give them the information over the phone rather than having them look up your dog’s record. If you have to call an emergency or after-hours clinic, they won’t have your pet’s information there, so you’ll have to provide them with the most accurate information you can. This could include:

● Your pet’s breed, age, and weight

● Any medical conditions your pet has

● Symptoms your pet is experiencing

● How recently the coffee grounds were consumed

● An estimate of the amount of coffee grounds eaten

Based on the information provided, the veterinarian will provide you with the next steps. It is important that you listen carefully and follow their instructions. Remember, they have your pet’s best interest at heart.

If they advise you to bring your pet to a clinic right away, there are a few steps that they will likely take once your pet has arrived. If it is within two hours of eating the coffee grounds and your dog has no symptoms or their symptoms are mild, the vet will most likely give your pet medication to induce vomiting. This will get the caffeine out of their system before it can be fully digested and cause further harm.

If more than two hours have passed and your dog is showing no side effects of consuming caffeine, they will probably opt to monitor them instead of inducing vomiting at that point in time. As part of this process, your vet will likely give them activated charcoal, which will absorb the caffeine in their body and prevent it from reaching their bloodstream.

Don’t be surprised if your vet chooses to put your dog on an IV of fluids as well. This will help keep them hydrated and also keep their kidneys working to filter out any toxins from the caffeine. They may also take a blood sample to ensure everything looks as it should.

The main takeaway

The biggest lesson here is to immediately call a veterinarian if you discover that your dog has eaten coffee grounds. No matter the amount, it is a good idea to get professional advice on how to deal with the situation and not leave anything up to chance.

For most of us, our dogs are a member of the family and we would do anything for them. While it may be inconvenient to drop everything and address your dog’s caffeine intake, it’s incredibly important to do so. 

Even if they just experience mild symptoms, you’ll want to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible while they wait for the caffeine to leave their system. And for more serious situations, time is of the essence.

While you can’t go back in time after something like this has happened, you can learn from the situation. The best way to prevent this from happening is to dispose of your coffee grounds carefully and take steps to ensure that your pup can’t get into them in the first place.