8 Liquids That Dogs Should Avoid

Dog drinking water from a bowl

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Your dog looks at its water bowl then looks at you. Is it your imagination or is your dog bored with the same old H20?

Before you start hunting around the kitchen looking for something more interesting to spice up your dog’s beverage repertoire, here's a look at some common household drinks and liquids and what the experts say about how safe they are for dogs.

Milk

You often see images of kittens lapping up milk, so why not puppies? Dogs (and cats) can be lactose intolerant, which means their bodies have a tough time digesting lactose — the sugar in milk. The unpleasant results can include diarrhea, vomiting, gassiness, and loose stools. Milk is also one of the items most frequently associated with skin allergies in dogs.

If you try a little bit of milk and your dog doesn't have any negative symptoms, it's OK to give it a couple of tablespoons occasionally as a treat. But watch your dog's reaction and make sure you don't give too much too often. Milk is high in fat and natural sugars, points out the AKC. If your dog has too much fat or sugar in its diet, it can lead to serious issues like obesity and pancreatitis.

Coffee

Schnauzer dog stretched out on top of a picnic table and looking at cup of coffee
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That morning cup of joe you depend on can be dangerous for your furry friend. Dogs are more sensitive to caffeine than people are, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. Getting a lick or two out of your cup likely won't do much harm, but any more than that (or eating coffee grounds) can be life-threatening. 

The dangerous substances are methylxanthines, which are found in coffee, tea, and chocolate. In coffee, the most abundant methylxanthine is caffeine, which is unsafe for dogs. Within two to four hours after consuming even a small amount of a caffeinated food or beverage, dogs may experience symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea, hyperactivity, tachycardia, panting, abnormal heart rhythm, excessive thirst and urination, tremors, seizures, and even death.

Alcohol

Extremely toxic to dogs, alcohol can cause difficulty breathing, decreased coordination, vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, tremors, and even death. 

The ethanol in alcohol is rapidly absorbed and dogs may begin to exhibit symptoms within 30 minutes to one hour. If you believe that your pet has consumed anything containing alcohol, contact your veterinarian or poison control center immediately.

Sports Drinks

Vizsla dog with its ears erect and its tongue hanging out to the side running through a forest

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While humans may benefit from an extra dose of electrolytes and sodium after a grueling run or hike, sports drinks should not be shared with dogs. Your canine companion needs lots of water, especially when they're exerting themselves, but they don't need the added ingredients found in sports drinks.

However, if a dog has vomiting and diarrhea, your veterinarian may suggest offering small amounts of sports drinks to prevent dehydration. Before giving the drink to your pet, check with your veterinarian and ask how much to offer. When your pet feels better, go back to offering plenty of clean, fresh water.

Fruit and Vegetable Juice

There are many fruits and vegetables that are good for your dog, and some that aren't. Always steer clear of avocados, grapes, and raisins, and juices that contain these items. Juices, like orange, cranberry, and apple juice often have added sugar, which is not appropriate for your pup. While it isn’t toxic, orange juice is highly acidic and not good for dogs.

If you want to give your pup something fruity, try offering small pieces of fresh apples, strawberries, or carrots instead of the liquid version.

Tea

Like coffee, tea can contain caffeine which can be harmful to your pet in anything more than very small doses —like a lick or two. Dogs are highly sensitive to the effects of caffeine. If your dog ingests more than a small amount of caffeinated tea or munches on a used tea bag it may exhibit symptoms including hyperactivity, an elevated heart rate, tremors, and even death.

The level of toxicity depends on the amount of tea consumed and the size of the pet, so it's best to keep tea away from your pup.

Soda

Like tea and coffee, some types of soda contain caffeine making them dangerous to pets. If your dog happens to lick up a few spilled drops of your cola off the floor it's likely no reason to panic, but you don't want to make it a regular occurrence. 

Soda also often contains a lot of added sugar. In dogs too much sugar can cause obesity and lead to diabetes. The high sugar content of soda coupled with the caffeine means you should never offer the carbonated drink to your dog. Keep soda out of your pet’s reach to prevent accidental ingestion.

Coconut Milk and Water

Topical coconut oil is used by some dog owners to help with skin issues like itchiness and dry skin. But when it comes to actually drinking coconut milk or coconut water, the advice is different. 

The ASPCA advises that coconut water is not recommended for dogs because it is high in potassium. Coconut milk, however, may be offered to your dog, but only in small amounts. Too much coconut flesh or milk may cause your pet to have loose stools, diarrhea, or an upset stomach. Before offering your dog a taste of coconut milk, check with your vet.

Liquids That Are Toxic to Dogs

Chihuahua laying on the ground next to a car tire
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Since we're talking about safety, let's veer off the theme of human drinks and consider several household liquids your dog should never drink. 

If you suspect that your pet has ingested something it shouldn't have, immediately contact your vet or Animal Poison Control Center.

Antifreeze

Ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in many antifreeze brands, can be fatal to pets. The sweet smell and good taste of this liquid make it incredibly tempting for dogs to want to sample. Even small quantities can be toxic. 

Try to choose antifreeze that contains propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol; it's less toxic, but still not risk-free. And know that some other common household products can contain ethylene glycol including paint, cosmetics, and even snow globes. Keep antifreeze tightly sealed and out of reach of your pet. And don't let your dog roam unsupervised in the garage.

Other Household Liquids

Dogs are exposed to a wide variety of household cleaning products that can be harmful. One common household product that is also used in some flea sprays is isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. This antiseptic is twice as toxic as ethanol and is absorbed quickly after it is ingested or applied to the skin. Symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, and difficulty breathing, can appear in as little as 30 minutes. 

Bleach — a frequently used cleaning product — can be highly toxic to pets. The higher the concentration of bleach, the higher the toxicity. Skin contact with bleach can cause irritation or burns depending on the strength of the product. If ingested, diluted bleach can cause vomiting and diarrhea, while concentrated bleach can cause severe internal damage.

Other cleaning products that are particularly dangerous to dogs are those that contain cationic detergents which are found in sanitizers, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets. Exposure can result in corrosive injury to the skin and eyes, or tissue injury if ingested. 

Anionic and nonionic detergents, found in common items like hand soap, dishwashing liquid, and shampoo, usually cause less severe symptoms if ingested. Dogs that consume these products typically experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms. 

To be on the safe side, keep these and other hazardous items out of your pet's reach, just like you would keep them away from your child.

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