Steps to Take if Your Dog Has Caffeine Poisoning & Other Doggy First Aid Tips


Reading Time: 18 minutes

Every single year in the United States, at least 100,000 pets experience poisoning. In many cases, the causes of the poisoning are substances that are entirely harmless to humans. Many humans enjoy indulging in things like chocolate, coffee, and alcohol but these things can all have a seriously negative effect on your pet. The tasty mocha that you grab at a coffeehouse each morning might start your day off right, but for your pet it’s full of ingredients that are bad for their health.

Caffeine alone is one of the most poisonous substances for your four-legged friend. That means lapping up coffee can cause illness to your pet. Medications are another common problem when it comes to pet poisoning. Household cleaners make up another section of products that can cause severe problems for your pet and their health. Even some plants sitting in pots in your home can lead to the need for a veterinarian if your pet manages to consume a leaf or flower.

We’ve talked before about some of the foods and things around your home that can be dangerous, and which should be stored out of reach of your pet. Today we’re going to talk about caffeine poisoning (and other types of poisoning) and how you should handle a situation where your pet has managed to get into something they shouldn’t have. We’ll also look at some other common illnesses and injuries associated with dogs and what steps to take if you notice a problem.

Common Household Substances That Can Cause Pet Poisoning

Before we jump into what you should do if you think your pet may be poisoned or otherwise injured, we want to do a quick reminder about what sort of items can be problematic for your pet to consume. This can give you a bit more insight into what the problem is if your pet seems ill and you suspect poisoning.

  • Prescription Medications – The medications that might be beneficial for humans can often cause illness in your pets. Be especially wary of antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and prescription anti-inflammatory and pain medications.
  • Insecticides – Insecticides, including flea and tick products, can cause poisoning if your dog ingests them. If you are uncomfortable using medications that can cause health issues, ask your veterinarian about safe options.
  • Over the Counter Medications – All sorts of over-the-counter medications can be harmful for your canine pal. Watch out for things like naproxen, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen, as well as any herbal products like fish oil or joint supplements.
  • Household Products – Household cleaners like bleach are a major cause of pet poisoning and can cause problems with the respiratory tract and stomach. Items like pool chemicals, antifreeze, and paint thinner can also poison a dog.
  • Human Food – Many foods that are okay for human consumption are not safe for your pets. Watch for chocolate, alcohol, coffee, grapes, raisins, avocado, macadamia nuts, and more. Always do a bit of research before feeding your pet a new ingredient to be sure it is safe for them.
  • Plants – Those beautiful plants around your home can be toxic to your pets, too. Some of the most common poisonous plants include tulips, azaleas, daffodils, sago palms, and rhododendrons.
  • Rodenticides – Poisons to get rid of mice and other pests can be poisonous if your dog consumes them. Sometimes the signs of poisoning may not come on until days afterward.

Signs and Symptoms of Poisoning in Dogs

Dogs are extremely curious in nature and enjoy getting into anything and everything, which is part of why so many accidental poisonings happen every year. A dog might come across an open bottle of a chemical or other substance, end up tipping it over, and taste it. Even if a pet walks through a hazardous substance, they could end up licking the area to clean it, consuming some of the poisonous substance. This is why it is crucial for pet owners to keep any potentially toxic items closed and far away from their pets.

There are numerous signs and symptoms of poisoning, which can affect your pet’s liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal system. Some of the most common are listed below:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Seizures
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bruising
  • Irregular heartbeat

Gastrointestinal Poisoning Symptoms

Vomiting and loss of appetite are common in dogs who are poisoned by things like toxic plants, lead paint, or garbage. Diarrhea can be the result of consuming medication, chocolate, garbage, coffee, and other toxic plants.

Neurological Poisoning Symptoms

Items like tobacco, aspirin, strychnine, alcohol, antidepressants, flea repellent, marijuana, gasoline, insecticides, drain cleaner, furniture polish and dishwasher detergent can cause symptoms like seizures. Some spiders, snakes, toads, and frogs can also cause seizures. There are also a handful of plants that may cause neurological symptoms in your pet dog.

Anemia and Bleeding Poisoning Symptoms

Mouse and rat poisons can lead to nosebleeds, bruising, anemia, and blood in the stool. Anemia and other symptoms can also be caused by garlic and onion.

Cardiac Poisoning Symptoms

Most cardiac symptoms, including irregular heart rhythm, are caused by poisoning from medications and toxic plants.

Kidney Poisoning Symptoms

Being poisoned by antifreeze can lead to trouble urinating and kidney failure. There are also numerous plants that can cause kidney health issues in dogs.

Liver Poisoning Symptoms

Liver poisoning is most common when dogs consume over-the-counter or prescription medications but can also be the result of ingesting toxic plants.

Steps to Take if You Believe Your Dog Has Been Poisoned

If you believe that your pet may have been poisoned, it is important to take action as quickly as possible. If you saw the dog consuming something that it should not have, you can watch for symptoms like the ones above that are common for that type of poisoning. However, it is always going to be an excellent idea to seek out assistance from a professional as soon as you are able to do so. The more quickly your pet sees a veterinarian, the more likely something can be done to limit the health issues from eating the toxic substance. Below, we’ll go over the steps you should take if you know or believe that your pet dog has been poisoned.

  1. The first step that you need to take in this situation is to remain calm. Try to avoid becoming anxious or stressed, as you need your wits about yourself to properly handle the situation. Take a few deep breaths and gather yourself before moving on to the next step.
  1. If there is evidence of the poison or substance that was consumed, collect it. This also includes vomit, if your pet has been sick. The reason you want to collect evidence is because it can help your veterinarian determine what type of poison your pet has ingested, which can help with the treatment of your pet.
  1. If the poisonous substance is still nearby, remove your pet from its vicinity. Before doing so, make sure that this is safe for you to do. In some cases, you may need to don special safety equipment like rubber gloves or a face mask to avoid injury to yourself.
  1. Get on your phone and call your veterinarian, an emergency vet, or the ASCPA Animal Poison Control Center. You can contact professionals by dialing 888-426-4435 but there is a consultation fee associated with your call.
  1. Make sure that you have information about your dog’s breed, sex, age, and weight ready to share with the veterinarian or other professional. You will also want to be prepared to provide information about the symptoms and any other information you have about the situation. If you know what the dog has consumed, get the container for it and have it available for reference. The experts can give you advice on what your next steps should be.

If your dog is having trouble breathing, having seizures, or has lost consciousness, you want to take immediate action. Instead of going through the steps above, you will want to transport your pet to a veterinarian or an emergency clinic as soon as you possibly can.

First Aid Supplies to Keep on Hand for Your Dog

In the case of caffeine poisoning or other injuries to your pet dog, having the right first aid items on hand can give you an additional way to ensure their health and well-being. As such, putting together a first aid kit with items specific to your pets is an excellent idea. This will ensure you have a way of handling a medical emergency if one happens with your pet dog. You should have the first aid kit available in your home and fully stocked at all times. Keep it next to the first aid kit for your family so it can be easily located when and if it is needed. The following items are supplies that you should always have on hand in case of an emergency:

  • Medical Records and Vet’s Phone Number – You should always have access to your veterinarian’s phone number in case you need to get in touch quickly. Leave a copy of the number in your first aid kit, along with the number to Animal Poison Control Center. In addition to that, keep a copy of your pet’s medical records stored away. This ensures you can provide accurate information when you get in touch with a vet or poison control.
  • Canine First Aid Manual – There are several first aid manuals on the market that explain first aid techniques to use on dogs. When in an emergency, you may forget steps that you should take, even if you have them memorized. The manual can help you ensure you do everything correctly.
  • Gauze – Always keep some gauze in your doggy first aid kit. This material can be used to wrap up scrapes, cuts, and other wounds. It can also be utilized as a muzzle for an injured animal, if needed.
  • Nonstick Bandages – Nonstick bandages are a necessity for any first aid kit for pets. These can be used to protect wounds or to control bleeding.
  • Adhesive Tape for Bandages – Adhesive tape makes for a great way to secure nonstick bandages or gauze. However, do not use human adhesive bandages on your pets.
  • Antibiotic Ointment or Spray – This can help prevent or reduce the chance of infection if your dog has a cut or scratch. Antibiotic wipes are also a great item to have for cleaning wounds. Styptic powder can be used to help stop bleeding.
  • Milk of Magnesia and/or Activated Charcoal – These two products are used to help absorb poison that a dog has ingested. However, you should always speak to poison control or a veterinarian before using either or inducing vomiting in a pet.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – This product can be used to induce vomiting in a pet, but again should only be used at the recommendation of a veterinarian or poison control expert.
  • Digital Thermometer – A fever thermometer, which is different from a traditional thermometer, can be used to check the temperature of your pet. This thermometer should not be introduced into the mouth of your pet, all temperatures must be taken rectally.
  • Eye Dropper or Syringe without Needle – You can use an eye dropper or a needle that does not contain a syringe to give your pet oral medications. This instrument may also be used to flush out wounds.
  • Muzzle – A muzzle is useful if your pet has suffered an injury and needs its head covered. However, under no circumstances should you use a muzzle if your pet is vomiting.
  • Leash – Having an extra leash available in your pet’s first aid kit will offer a fast way to transport them. Only use this method of transport if your dog is able to walk without it causing additional injury.
  • Stretcher – A stretcher, or a board or blanket, can be used to help stabilize an injured animal. You can transport the animal while ensuring that no further injury is caused.

Other items you may want to include in your kit include tweezers, scissors, disposable gloves, magnifying glass, cotton balls, bottled water, and food. While you may never need to use all of these things, when the time for an emergency comes, you’ll be glad you had everything you could possibly need on hand. It allows you to be prepared and able to handle any situation as it comes.

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Handing Pet Injuries and Illnesses at Home

While nobody wants to find out that their pet dog has ingested coffee, been stung by a bee, or is bleeding from a wound, accidents do happen. Knowing how to handle these kinds of emergencies is important so you don’t inadvertently cause additional problems in an ill or injured dog. While there are far too many illnesses and injuries possible in dogs to list them all here, we wanted to go through some of the common scenarios and how to provide appropriate first aid when your pet is in need. We’ll go over things like what to do with a dehydrated pet, how to bandage a wound, and what to do if your pet dog has a fever.

Bandaging a Dog

There are several reasons why you might need to bandage your pet. Bandages can protect wounds from the environment around them and help prevent a pet from biting or licking a wound which can cause additional irritation. Bandages can also be used for sprains and strains to prevent movement. However, applying a bandage correctly is important. If it’s put on too tightly, it can cause decreased blood flow and other issues.

The first thing you want to do is clean the wound where you will be applying the bandage. Any dirt, dried blood, and other debris should be removed using water and mild soap. If possible, you should clip the hair near the wound. After the wound is properly cleaned, pat the wound dry before applying the bandage.

After the wound has been cleaned and dried, it’s time to apply antibiotic ointment to the wound. Next, you will apply the first bandage which will be in contact with the wound. Telfa Non-Adherent Pads are a great option if you have them on hand. An absorbent layer of bandage will go over this first lawyer. This should be a Dacron or cotton material and you can find these in 1, 2, 3, and 4-inch rolls, depending on the part of the body where it will be used. This will be applied in several layers but be careful not to wrap it overly tight.

The final layer is what will be seen on the outside and typically is an elastic or adhesive tape. You want this to be snug and smooth in appearance. The tape should overlap the bandage layers and touch the skin of the dog so the bandage can’t move around.

It’s important to check bandages on a regular basis for odor, swelling, or skin discoloration. If you notice any of these things, it’s time to change the bandage. The same applies if it is dirty, wet, or moves out of position. If you do not properly apply the bandage, it can result in the loss of a limb, so be extremely cautious. If you are unsure, speak with a veterinarian who can apply and change bandages for you.

Insect Bite & Bee Sting Remedies

If an insect or spider stings or bites your pet, it can cause issues. It might cause itching, redness, and swelling. In some cases, your pet may have an allergic reaction that may lead to swelling, trouble breathing, hives, vomiting, or collapse. This is a situation where acting quickly is important.

If you can find a stinger, use a stiff material like a credit card to scrape it out. If that isn’t possible, use tweezers to pull out the stinger. The venom sack is located above the stinger and you should above touching this, as it can cause your pet to be injected with an increased amount of venom.

Next, you can use cool compresses to soothe there area of the sting or bite. If there is venom, you can help neutralize some of the effects by applying a paste of water and baking soda to the sting location. If you notice any signs of allergic reaction, you should immediately take your dog to the veterinarian.

Sunburn on Dogs

Most dogs are covered by fur which helps to protect them from the rays of the sun. However, if this isn’t the case, sunburn can cause damage to the skin and needs to be tended to. If there is an area on your dog that is non-pigmented or bald, you should use a sunscreen that contains PABA. Avoid other sunscreens since they sometimes have ingredients that are harmful if ingested by your dog.

The best option with sunburn is preventing it from happening in the first place. This means keeping your pet out of areas where there is direct sunlight. If your pet is required to be in the direct sun, use the PABA containing sunscreen in the same manner as you would yourself. It’s also important to ensure your pet does not lick it off. However, if your pet does end up with a sunburn, the best option is to apply a large amount of aloe vera and get in touch with a veterinarian to determine if further action is required.

Dehydration First Aid

Dehydration is caused by a dog taking in too little water over a certain period of time or by losing most of the water in their body by diarrhea or vomiting. One of the things that many owners do that should be avoided is attempting to encourage their doggy to eat and drink while they are still vomiting. This can result in making the situation worse, as the intestinal tract has no time to rest. It can lead to more vomiting and loss of fluids. It actually is often a better idea to remove water and food for a short period. Dehydration is quite serious and if it is not treated, it can cause issues with the kidneys.

If your pet has anything more than mild dehydration, the best option is to reach out to a veterinarian. However, for mild dehydration without vomiting, you should provide small amounts of water on a frequent basis. If your pet seems to be in pain, hasn’t eaten in 24 hours, or is overly tired, you should again speak with a vet for instructions.

Some of the signs of dehydration include gums or tongue that are dry. If your dog’s saliva is thicker than normal, that can also be a sign. Look at your pet’s eyes, as well. If you notice dry or sunk eyes, this is another sign of dehydration and one that means you should reach out to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

What to Do When Your Dog Has a Fever

When a pet has a fever, that means that they have a high temperature because of inflammation or infection in the body. For a dog, the normal range of temperature is from 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Dogs should have their temperature taken rectally for the best results using a digital electronic thermometer. You want to lubricate the thermometer and insert it about ½ to one inch inside the rectum.

If your pet seems to be ill, take their temperature and jot that down. If the temperature is above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, you will want to contact a veterinarian. A temperature of more than 106 degrees Fahrenheit is extremely concerning and even life-threatening and should be dealt with immediately.

For temperatures above 105 degrees Fahrenheit, you can use cold water to moisten the dog’s fur, especially at the feet and ears. Next, turn on a fan and direct it at the areas that you have moistened. It’s also a good idea to encourage your dog to drink small amounts of water on a regular basis, unless the dog has vomited in the last few hours.

Once the temperature is back to 103 degrees or below, you will want to stop cooling the dog or they may become too cold, which is a problem in itself. If your pet is shivering, depressed, or lethargic, this may mean that they have a fever. The only way to tell is by taking their temperature.

Caring for Wounds

Wounds can be caused in all sorts of ways and are characterized by a break in the tissues of your pup’s body. You may notice that a dog who has been injured may act in ways that are abnormal. Because of that, you will want to muzzle your pet or use a towel to restrain them as you deal with the wound. This will protect both you and your four-legged friend.

In many case, you will need to reach out to a veterinarian for a wound. Your pet may require pain medications, sedation, or even general anesthesia while the wound is cleaned and closed up. If the wound comes from another animal, the wound can even get worse and require more medical care. Depending on how serious the wound is, the process of treating it might take days or weeks and involve surgery, bandaging, and skin grafting.

If the wound your dog has is superficial, meaning it does not go entirely through the skin, the first thing you want to do is control and stop the bleeding. After that is done, you can clean, dry, and bandage the wound.

However, for deeper wounds, the steps are a bit more in-depth. The first thing you will want to do is use direct pressure to stop the bleeding. Once you have managed to stem the bleeding, get in touch with a veterinarian. You should not clean the wound unless your vet instructs you to do so. What you can do is make a compress with water or saline and apply it to the wound. This will stay in place until the vet says otherwise. Next you will need to immobilize the wound and then transport your pet to the vet.

Steps to Take if Your Dog is Choking

Choking is a rare occurrence and, in many cases, when a dog owner seeks out a vet believing their dog has something stuck in their throat, that isn’t actually what his happening. It is often instead coughing that is confused for choking. This misunderstanding happens because both choking and coughing can cause your pet to exhale more forcefully than normal. The difference is that with choking, the dog is going to have trouble inhaling. It’s important to determine which is happening because providing choking first aid to a pet that is coughing can lead to unneeded injury.

If you aren’t sure whether your pet is choking or not, you will want to see a vet. This person can evaluate the dog’s throat and determine whether anything is lodged in the throat.

For a pet who is choking and unconscious, the first thing you want to do is called a finger sweep. This involves opening the dog’s mouth and putting a finger inside. That finger will slide down toward the throat center over the base of the tongue. A gentle sweeping motion is used to remove anything that might be stuck there. However, be aware that if you go deep in the throat, the Adam’s apple is there and will feel like a smooth bone. Do not attempt to remove it.

Rescue breathing is also important for a pet who is unconscious. If air does not seem to be entering your dog’s lungs, you want to perform the Heimlich maneuver. What you want to do is place the dog on its back and put your hands near the bottom of the rib cage and over the abdomen. Then you will firmly but gently thrust toward the dog’s spine. Do a sweep with your fingers and then start rescue breathing. This will continue until whatever is in the throat is cleared and the lungs are able to inflate. You should then transport your pet to the veterinarian.

If the pet is conscious, do your best to keep the pet and yourself calm. If the pet is hot, use cold water on the feet, ears, and stomach to cool them. If the pet will allow it, perform a finger sweep. However, do not do so if you are concerned that the pet might bite you.

How to Handle Diarrhea or Vomiting

If your pet has consumed coffee or other things around the home that they shouldn’t have, you may find that they begin to vomit or have watery diarrhea. There are other causes, as well. Some illnesses may lead to gastrointestinal distress which leads to one or both of these symptoms.

For a pet who is vomiting or who has diarrhea, you will first want to remove access to their water and food. Next, check the dog for any signs that they might be dehydrated. If your dog seems ill or the vomiting and diarrhea continue, you will want to get in contact with a veterinarian. These issues can lead to major fluid loss, most notable in older and young dogs.

If there is no vomiting for at least six hours, you should start to offer small amounts of clear liquids like water, Pedialyte, or Gatorade, on a regular basis. If the dog is able to keep down the water, the next day you can introduce meals of rice and boiled chicken or hamburger. However, if the pet is not interested in eating or has additional diarrhea or vomiting, it’s best to seek out a veterinarian.

Fractures in Dogs and What to Do

There are several types of fractures a dog can have, and the type will have an effect on what your next steps should be. A closed fracture is one in which the bone is broken but there is no external wound. An open fracture involves a broken bone along with open wounds. A dislocation isn’t a broken bone and instead occurs when the tissues that hold a joint are injured which moves the joint out of place. Sprains are injuries to tendons, joints, or ligaments near a joint.

Before doing anything to treat your dog, you want to be sure that biting injuries are avoided. This involves muzzling your pet so treatment can start. If there is bleeding present, you will want to stop it with the use of direct pressure. For an open fracture, you want to cover the wound with sterile gauze if it is available. If not, you can use a feminine pad or a clean cloth over the wound. Next, you will want to immobilize your pet on a stretcher or board so it can be transported safely. At that point, you will visit the vet to find out what treatment options are available.

Wrapping Up

At this point you should have a good idea of how to treat a pet who has gotten into your latte, as well as how to provide first aid for many different injuries and illnesses common in dogs. Always remember that if you are concerned about the wellbeing of your furry buddy, it’s best to visit a vet or seek out other professional help. But in the event of an accident, these tips can walk you through how to handle the situation until you can get to proper medical care. Good luck!

Bonus Questions

1. How much does a first aid kit cost?

A first aid kit can cost anywhere from around $10 up to $50 or more. It depends on what items are included and whether the kit is homemade or sold by a company. A first aid kit for a pet can run around the same price.

2. What does a dog smile look like?

The dog smile is similar to a smile form a human and has the lips curled up. Some experts believe this is because dogs have seen humans smiling this way or because they are rewarded for doing so.

3. Can coffee kill dogs?

Yes, if your dog eats too much coffee containing caffeine, it can lead to serious health problems or even death. It’s important to contact a veterinarian quickly if your pet has consumed coffee or other caffeinated products.

4. What if my dog eats salt?

If dogs eat extremely salty foods or salt on its own, it can cause your pet to become dehydrated. Provide your pet with water as quickly as possible and watch for any symptoms of salt poisoning.

5. Which fruit is good for dogs?

There are many fruits that are good for dogs to eat. Some of them include banana, mango, orange, pear, strawberry, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Make sure to remove the seeds from any fruit first before feeding it to your pet.

6. Is bacon bad for dogs?

Bacon is fatty and rich with a large amount of salt, which may cause stomach problems for some dogs. While feeding your dog a bit of bacon now and again is generally fine, it shouldn’t be given in large amounts.

7. What food is bad for dogs?

Some of the foods that you should not allow your dog to consume include onions, garlic, chives, raisins, grapes, and currants. Mushrooms, potatoes, rhubarb, and avocado should also be avoided.

8. What happens when a dog eats too much?

If a dog eats too much or too quickly, it can cause canine bloat. This is an illness that can be serious or even life-threatening in nature. Your dog will seem different in terms of personality and physical action if they are suffering from bloat.

9. Is it OK to feed my dog chicken every day?

Unseasoned, cooked chicken is a great way to add extra protein to your dog’s diet if needed. However, no more than 10% of their diet should consist of chicken to prevent gastrointestinal irritation.

10. Are coffee grounds dangerous for dogs?

Yes, you should never allow your pet to drink coffee, eat coffee grounds, or consume other foods that contain caffeine. Your dog is much more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than you are and drinking too much can lead to various health issues.

Related Content:

Best Practices to Keep Your Pet Dog Away from Coffee and Other Hazardous Items
Dogs and Coffee, Chocolate, Raisins and Other Forbidden Foods of the Holidays (Video)
15 Dog First Aid Methods All Owners Should Know and Some Surprising Facts About Dog Health (Video)