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Tea is a popular beverage all over the world. Needless to say, countless kitchens are stocked with tea bags and sometimes, a dumpster-diving pooch might find a used bag. Or maybe you dropped a bag on the floor and your dog scooped it up. Should you be concerned? This article explains everything you need to know.
Are Tea Bags Toxic to Dogs?
Tea is something we, as humans, love to consume, but it should never be given to dogs. As you already might know, tea contains caffeine – although not at the same high level as coffee.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that energizes your mood. While it may sound exciting, too much can have adverse effects. Dogs are much more sensitive to caffeine than humans and thus, they’ll feel the side effects much quicker.
So if they get an overdose of caffeine through eating tea bags, they’ll develop specific health issues. Furthermore, caffeine is similar to another chemical component called theobromine, which is also there in chocolate. This chemical is toxic to dogs, too, and something else you shouldn’t be feeding them.
Caffeine is most concentrated in green tea bags but normal black tea (also known as Ceylon tea) can also be problematic for pets. In an 8-oz cup serving of green tea, you’ll have about 35 mg of caffeine. But the overall amount can fluctuate between 30 and 50 mg for an 8-oz serving. The amount largely depends on the variety of tea leaves and how it was processed.
In short order, teabags pose less of a threat to your dog than coffee, but they are toxic nevertheless.
What is Caffeine Poisoning?
This condition is common to both humans and dogs alike. People with caffeine sensitivity can develop symptoms of caffeine poisoning quickly.
As already mentioned, caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. The compound reacts with the nervous system, and that’s why you feel more active and energetic after consuming coffee or tea.
But in high concentrations, caffeine can backfire. It can lead to hyperactivity and seizures, both of which are signs of caffeine poisoning in dogs. Therefore, if your dog accidentally ate some tea bags, you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Caffeine Poisoning
So how do you know that your dog has ingested an excessive amount of caffeine from tea bags? Luckily, there are a few symptoms to look out for before things get too serious.
Caffeine starts to work within 1-2 hours of consumption. It dissolves into the bloodstream and interacts with the nervous system and if there’s an overdose, your dog may develop neurologic, metabolic, gastrointestinal, and pulmonary complications.
The first thing you might notice is panting and nervousness. Since your dog is sensitive to caffeine, it will develop these signs rather quickly. You might be fooled if you have an active dog that often pants, causing you to overlook these clues. But you know your dog ate a tea bag or two, don’t ignore these early warning signs.
Other than panting, dogs will have an increased heart rate and agitation. They might also refuse to settle, run around, pace, and show clear signs of anxiety. Symptoms show up more commonly among smaller dogs that weigh less than 10 pounds. For dogs that weigh more than 50 or 60 pounds, they may have more tolerance for caffeine.
In cases of a severe overdose, your dog will experience nausea, vomiting, and even seizures. Don’t wait until these symptoms manifest! If you know your dog has snacked on your tea supply, do this…
What to Do After a Dog Eats Tea Bags
Consumption of a single tea bag isn’t likely to cause such a problem, especially for larger dogs. Regular tea bags contain a tea content of between 1-2 grams.
Your dog can tolerate a small amount of caffeine. But things start to complicate when your dog consumes or bites more tea bags. The more bags your pet eats, the greater the risk.
Once you spot the initial warning signs, you should rush your dog to the vet. Upon reaching the clinic, they will closely examine the dog’s condition and provide treatment.
What Will the Vet Do?
Tea granules can accumulate in the GI tract and release caffeine into the bloodstream. Although these will be expelled in the feces over time, a severe overdose is not the time to leave your dog’s health to the internal works of its GI tract.
The vet may recommend inducing vomiting to quickly get rid of most of the tea granules. The vet will prepare a special solution to help your dog to chuck the tea bags. Once consumed, the solution irritates the dog’s GI tract and forces it to throw up within 10-15 minutes. In most cases, it can empty up to 50% of the stomach content.
Your vet may also go for GI decontamination. They will use a gastric lavage and insert it through the mouth opening. The endotracheal tube will suck out the stomach contents along with the tea granules.
After the stomach content has been removed, the vet will administer certain medications like tranquilizers and phenobarbital. These control the central nervous system by bringing it back to normal and making it easier for your dog to recover.
Your dog may become weak because of the above procedures. It will take some time to recover. To accelerate the process, you should feed the dog some nutritious food and plenty of water.
A Quick Summary
The best way to prevent all the complications of caffeine poisoning is to keep the tea bags out of reach for pets. A safe place is locked away in a cupboard or a drawer. Although caffeine poisoning is rarely fatal, it can seriously traumatize both you and the dog should things go too far. At best, a dog might just pant but at worst, they can suffer seizures. A visit to the vet is the best option to deal with a dog that had eaten too many tea bags.