Dr. Renee Schmid is warning pet parents to keep all caffeinated products away from their pets. No longer limited to coffee or tea, caffeine can be found in pills, candy, gum and other products, often in high doses. Caffeine ingested by pets can increase their heart rate or cause an abnormal heart rhythm, elevate blood pressure, and cause seizures.

If your pet eats any caffeinated products, please see your veterinarian immediately! It can be deadly.

The following press release shares the story of Cooper (pictured above), who got into his caregiver’s caffeine pills. It emphasizes the importance of keeping these products out of your pet’s reach.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (May 8, 2024) – It’s school finals season. Whether it’s a cup of joe, a chocolate bar or an energy drink, caffeine consumption during school finals increases faster than skyrocketing tuition. While most students can handle the extra jolt of energy, dogs and cats are much more sensitive to the effects of the stimulant.

“So many products contain caffeine at various strengths, that it’s difficult to know when something is dangerous,” said Dr. Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline. “The reactions that humans feel from consuming caffeine, such as an increased heart rate, are intensified in pets. In addition to an increased heart rate, if the dose is too high, caffeine can lead to an elevated blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and in extreme cases, death.”

Although most people consume caffeine in a drink, or in treats like chocolate or chewing gum, caffeine pills are also still heavily marketed and purchased. “Regardless of its form, caffeine has the same negative effects on your pet’s health,” Dr. Schmid added.

“My husband is the last person on earth still taking caffeine pills each morning,” joked Becky Maxwell, who lives in the Atlanta area with her husband Keith and their wire fox terrier named Cooper. “He had just purchased a new package of pills, which was in a box, in a bag, on top of the kitchen table. Somehow, Cooper got the box out of the bag, tore open the box and chewed open the pill pack. We found the ripped-up packaging, and several pieces of pills, but we don’t know how many he actually ate.”

Maxwell did a quick internet search and found that caffeine can be dangerous to pets, so she rushed Cooper to Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG) in Alpharetta, Georgia. Once there, the medical team had her call the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline.

“We are quite often the next call the veterinarian asks the pet owner to make after a pet eats something potentially toxic,” Dr. Schmid explained. “Most veterinary hospitals in the U.S. don’t have toxicologists on staff to treat patients, so many rely on our expertise to help them diagnose and treat poisoning cases.”

The amount of caffeine in less than one tablet was enough to cause a poisoning concern for Cooper.  The fact that he likely ingested several pills made Cooper at a high risk to develop severe signs. By the time Cooper arrived at the hospital, he was already hyperactive and had an elevated heart rate. He was given a sedative to help calm him down and treated with an anti-emetic to help avoid vomiting with possible aspiration due to his neurologic status. He was placed on IV fluids, provided diligent nursing care, and his treating veterinarian was advised to give anticonvulsants if seizures developed and methocarbamol for tremors.  After a night of monitoring and care, Cooper was able to go home the following day.

“The folks at VEG were very compassionate, and allowed us in the treatment area rather than making us wait in the lobby. It really helped calm us down,” Maxwell added. “We also really appreciate how quickly Pet Poison Helpline communicated with the hospital. It allowed them to work on Cooper almost immediately.

In addition to learning that caffeine can be dangerous to pets, the Maxwells now know that certain dog breeds are more prone to getting into trouble.

“We’ve had dogs our entire adult lives, but never a terrier,” Maxwell explained. “They get into everything. It’s like having a toddler.”

Pet Poison Helpline created Toxin Tails to educate the veterinary community and pet lovers on the many types of poisoning dangers facing pets, both in and out of the home. All the pets highlighted in Toxin Tails have been successfully treated for the poisoning and fully recovered.

About Pet Poison Helpline

Pet Poison Helpline®, your trusted source for toxicology and pet health advice in times of potential emergency, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. We are an independent, nationally recognized animal poison control center triple licensed by the Boards of Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Pharmacy providing unmatched professional leadership and expertise. Our veterinarians and board-certified toxicologists provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $85 per incident includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the case. Based in Minneapolis, Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.

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