Everyone’s heard the saying about curiosity killing the cat, yet cats aren’t the only pets that suffer from too much curiosity. Canines are pretty inquisitive too and are prone to cause their human owners lots of anxiety as a result. Chances are that at some point in their life, your dog will get into something they shouldn’t—possibly something dangerous for their health.
So what should you do if the teabag from your morning tea has disappeared? Or worse yet, if your dog has gotten into your tea collection? Most of the time, swallowing a tea bag is not fatal, though it can be serious. Here’s what you need to know.
Are Teabags Harmful to Dogs?
Tea is a wonderful, soothing drink for humans, but tea bags are not appropriate for dogs, no matter how much interest your pup exhibits in them. Several issues may arise from consuming them.
Anyone who can’t function without their morning cup of tea knows that most teas contain caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and gives you a boost of energy, whether you’re a human or a dog.
Humans tolerate this stimulation well, but dogs are a different story. Dogs are much more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than we are, and it can be downright harmful to them. Additionally, caffeine has a chemical component called theobromine, which is present in chocolate–yep, the same one that makes chocolate dangerous for dogs.
If your dog has eaten a tea bag, the first thing you should do is determine whether it contains caffeine or not. Most herbal teas are usually caffeine-free and, therefore, not dangerous to your pup. Some examples include:
- Decaf tea
However, caffeine-containing teas can be toxic. These include things like:
- Black tea (English Breakfast or Earl Grey)
- White tea
- Green tea
Bowel obstruction is another risk of eating a teabag. When swallowed whole, a teabag can get stuck in your dog’s intestines or stomach and cause a life-threatening blockage if left untreated.
If your dog snatches a tea bag from your saucer, there’s a good chance it was hot. Hot tea bags can cause serious burns in your dog’s mouth, throat, or stomach. Aside from being painful, burns can also cause infections.
Steps to Take if Your Dog Eats a Tea Bag
First things first: don’t panic and call your vet. Be ready to give them the following information:
- How big your dog is
- How long it’s been since they ate the teabag
- What kind of tea bag they ate
- Any symptoms you might observe
In some cases, you may have to make a visit to your vet. The vet may want to provoke vomiting, which is best left to the professionals. In more complicated situations, endoscopy or surgery may be required.
Can’t get ahold of your vet? The Pet Poison Hotline is your next best resource.
Caffeine Poisoning: What Is It?
Caffeine poisoning is a result of consuming too much caffeine.
Caffeine acts on the central nervous system by blocking receptors called adenosine. In moderate amounts, this effect gives you a nice energy boost. But if you ingest large amounts, caffeine can cause side effects like hyperactivity and, in more serious cases, seizures.
Both humans and dogs can experience caffeine poisoning.
Signs Your Dog Has Caffeine Poisoning
So now, let’s address the question every anxious dog owner is asking: how do you know if your dog has caffeine poisoning?
The first thing to remember is that even though dogs are more sensitive to caffeine than humans, one teabag is usually not enough to produce adverse effects. Most dogs, especially larger breeds, would have to eat lots of teabags to get caffeine poisoning.
Caffeine takes about one to two hours to dissolve in the bloodstream, which is when you would notice some of the more severe signs. In the meantime, you should call your vet.
Symptoms of Dog Mild Caffeine Overdose
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms, which indicate a mild caffeine overdose:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Nervous behavior
Some pet owners may find these signs challenging to distinguish, especially if their dog is already active. But if you do notice them (or anything else that’s unusual), let your vet know. They’re a warning sign for caffeine poisoning, and you should monitor your dog closely.
Symptoms of Dog Caffeine Poisoning
Dogs with caffeine poisoning may exhibit the following symptoms:
If you notice any of these signs, take your dog to the emergency room right away. Their life could be on the line, and medical treatment is necessary.
Will My Dog Be Okay?
Worrying about your dog’s health is always stressful. Luckily, most dogs will not suffer long-term consequences from eating a teabag, especially if you seek medical attention right away.
However, in very rare cases (especially those where the dog eats a lot of teabags), some dogs may succumb to caffeine poisoning. If you suspect your dog has ingested a large number of teabags, contact your vet right away.
If your pup suffered from thermal burns, they may have to take painkillers to help soothe soreness. Your vet may recommend using a stomach tube while the mouth is healing, but in most cases, the prognosis is good.
Dogs with bowel obstructions often have to undergo surgery to save their lives. Once the tea bag is removed, most pups will be just fine.
Dogs are curious animals, which means pet owners should always be on their feet. But sometimes dogs get into things they shouldn’t, no matter how diligent you are. Swallowing tea bags can cause some severe problems, and you should always contact your vet if you suspect your dog has eaten one.
Of course, the best way to avoid problems is to prevent them from happening. Keep your stash safely out of reach in a high cupboard, and always get rid of the tea bag as soon as you’re done with your tea.