Canine munches down caffeine pills

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As we enter finals season, caffeine may be a necessity for students but a danger to pets

Cooper, a wire fox terrier, was rushed to the emergency room after ingesting some his owners caffeine pill (Image courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline)

Cooper, a wire fox terrier, was rushed to the emergency room after ingesting some his owners caffeine pill (Image courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline)

Whether it's a student studying for finals or even just a veterinary professional who needs a steady supply of caffeine, there will most likely be an increased supply of caffeine nearby. However, in its latest installment of Pet Poison Helpline's "Toxin Tails," the team is warning caffeine consumers that the energy boost it gives humans is not the same for cats and dogs, as they are 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 Renee Schmid, DVM, DABT, DABVT, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline, in an organizational release.1 “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.”

According to dog owner, Becky Maxwell from the Atlanta area, her husband Keith is the last person on the planet that still takes caffeine pills every morning. She shared that Keith had recently purchased a new package his caffeine pills and left them in the box, within a plastic bag, and on top of their kitchen counter. Despite being what they thought was out of reach for Cooper, the couple’s wire fox terrier, he managed to get the box out of the bag, tear it open, and chew the pill pack open. The couple found the ripped packaging as well as several pieces of pills, but they were unclear how much Cooper had ingested.1

Worried, Becky and Keith rushed Cooper to Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG) in Alpharetta, Georgia and its emergency medical team called 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,” explained Schmid. “Most veterinary hospitals in the US 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 that is in less than one of those tablets was enough to cause a poisoning concern for Cooper, especially the fact he likely ingested multiple pills, and made him at high risk to develop severe signs. By the time Becky and Keith got him to VEG, he had an elevated heart rate and was hyperactive. According to the release,1 the emergency team gave him a sedative to calm him down as well as an anti-emetic to help avoid any vomiting with aspiration because of his neurologic status.

Cooper was placed on IV fluids and was given diligent nursing care, plus his treating veterinarian advised to give anticonvulsants if seizures developed and methocarbamol for tremors. He was able to return home the following day after spending a night being monitored and cared for by the team at VEG.

“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,” Becky added.1 “We also really appreciate how quickly Pet Poison Helpline communicated with the hospital. It allowed them to work on Cooper almost immediately.”

Cooper was successfully treated for what he ingested and his owners know have a better understanding of the dangers of caffeine ingestion for pets, and that some breeds are more likely to get into trouble than others.

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

Reference

Caffeine can be poisonous to pets. News release. Pet Poison Helpline. May 8, 2024. Accessed May 8, 2024. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/caffeine-can-be-poisonous-to-pets-302138954.html

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