In this article, Felcana covers all your questions about tea for dogs:
- Can dogs drink tea?
- Is tea bad for dogs?
- Signs of caffeine toxicity in dogs
- Benefits of tea for dogs
- Are there safer alternatives to tea?
- How to serve tea to your dog
- How to make your own homemade caffeine-free tea for your dog
So, can dogs drink tea?
To put simply, yes, but in moderation. “Is caffeine poisonous to dogs?” tends to follow on from that. Again, yes, but not in small quantities. Aside from an enjoyable beverage, tea could benefit your dog’s health in many ways. A good rule would be to limit the amount you give your dog to avoid caffeine toxicity.
Alternatively, substituting regular tea for decaffeinated herbal teas such as peppermint or chamomile is considered a safer choice for dogs. You should also avoid adding sugars or milk to the brew, as allowing your dog to drink milk could lead to digestive issues, and frequent sugar consumption can lead to obesity and diabetes.
Tea is said to be the most consumed beverage in the UK, with more than 100 million cups consumed every day. It poses as a popular alternative to water and coffee, not only for its flavour, but it has for centuries played a significant role as a social activity in many cultures - especially in the UK! As an alternative to coffee, it can also provide the sought-after caffeine boost, but in much lower quantities than that typically found in an equivalent cup of coffee.
Given its popularity, this frequently consumed beverage may lead to pet owners wanting to share their love for tea with their well-loved furry companion.
Is tea bad for dogs?
The main issue with dogs drinking tea is caffeine. Teas that comes from the Camellia sinensis plant contain a larger amount of caffeine, and these include black tea, green tea, oolong tea and white tea.
Black tea is the ‘every day’ tea we all know and love, like Earl Grey, English Breakfast or Darjeeling. They are left to completely ferment after being harvested, resulting in its natural green colour becoming oxidised to give its distinctive darker colour.
Green tea is the opposite, as it is dried quickly after being harvested to minimise oxidation. This results in it retaining the green shade of the tea plant, and more importantly, having a lower caffeine concentration. It also is reported to have the same level of antioxidative properties as black tea.
Oolong tea and white tea are the midpoints of black tea and green tea. They are partially oxidised, therefore have a caffeine level in between the two. They both offer a wide range of flavours and health benefits too.
If caffeine is poisonous to dogs... is it worth the risk?
Caffeine is a substance that can be found in the tea plant which stimulates the central nervous system. It has been suggested that the caffeine protects plants against insects by overstimulating them. Caffeine is popularly consumed every day to help keep us alert and feeling less tired.
It is definitely debatable as to whether a dog would appreciate this boost. Even if they did, it is generally advised not to let your dog have caffeine as it could end up with a trip to the vet.
On top of this, the tannins found in tea were initially found to be anti-nutritional. Similar to caffeine, they also protect the plant against predators by acting as a binder. Tannins have been found to cause iron deficiency in humans by binding to the iron from plant-based foods. In dogs, consuming large volumes of tannins can also lead to liver toxicity and gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhoea.
This is why it is important to stick by the rule of allowing your dog to only drink tea in moderation. Decaffeinated tea is also widely available, however bear in mind that they can still contain traces of caffeine.
What are the signs of caffeine toxicity in dogs?
The key signs to look out for which could indicate caffeine toxicity in your dog are listed below:
- In more severe cases caffeine can cause seizures or a loss of consciousness
For an average dog, such as a Cocker Spaniel, it would take up to approximately 80 cups of tea to reach caffeine toxicity and cause some of these signs. However, one of the main causes of caffeine toxicity is a devious dog finding access to certain foods or household products, which they then consume in large amounts in a single sitting, exceeding the toxicity levels. It is still rare for owners to give their dogs caffeinated beverages, due to the risk of caffeine toxicity.
What’s good about tea?
Tea contains substances called catechins. They protect the plant from environmental toxins and repair damage. They can similarly play a role as an antioxidant in humans and animals when consumed.
Antioxidants help slow damage of our cells caused by the action of free radicals. Free radicals are formed during oxidative stress to our cells, for example, exposure to UV rays from the sun, or environmental pollutants such as cigarette smoke, smog, and car exhausts. This deteriorates the DNA within our cells, which may then lead to cancer.
Antioxidants therefore, are said to play an important role in reducing the risk of cancer. A study found that these catechins in tea may be helpful in preventing liver, stomach and intestinal cancer in animals!
Antioxidants also offer a whole plethora of other health benefits. They play a role in inhibiting inflammation, which would be beneficial to dogs suffering from chronic inflammations such as allergic dermatitis, chronic arthritis, enteritis, and hepatitis. They may also strengthen the immune system and therefore contribute towards protecting the body against diseases and infections.
It has also been reported that antioxidants help prevent diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels and regulating insulin levels. They may also protect against cardiovascular disease as they cause blood vessel dilation and thus promote circulation and lower blood pressure.
Tea also contains an animo acid called L-theanine, which is said to promote a sense of calmness, regulate mood, and improve focus and attention. It can therefore be a useful prescription-free alternative to easing fear and anxiety in dogs. It has been found to have mild side effects in humans, but is generally considered safe in dogs.
What are the safer alternatives to tea for dogs?
There are also many types of herbal teas available as a substitute to normal tea, although, they are technically not “tea”, as they are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant.
Herbal teas are brews of various flowers, herbs, roots, fruits and spices. They have similar properties to tea, being rich in antioxidants, as well as their own individual health benefits. But most importantly, they are all free from caffeine!
1. Rooibos tea – Antioxidative
A red tea low in tannins, rich in antioxidants and particularly good for preventing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The antioxidants are said to also help with skin problems and relieve itchiness if applied topically.
2. Chamomile tea – Calming
Similar looking to a daisy, the flowers are dried to make a mellow, apple and honey scented tea! It is known to be a natural sedative and muscle relaxant, making it a natural way to potentially calm an anxious or aggressive dog. It is also believed to aid digestive issues and boost the immune system.
3. Peppermint tea – Freshen breath
Peppermint; a widely used herb from being an essential oil in aromatherapy to flavouring breath mints and candy canes. Similarly, it is a great way to freshen up your dog’s breath. With it being known to be a muscle relaxant, it is said relieve digestive issues and improve breathing by relaxing the nasal cavity.
4. Ginger tea – Ease nausea
Not just a fragrant addition to dishes of many cuisines, this spicy root has been used for millenniums as a popular remedy for nausea. It also helps to lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It is also very rich in antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory and helps strengthen the immune system. With ginger tea, just add hot water to slices of raw ginger and let it steep for 10 minutes.
Are you curious about what else you could offer your dog? Check out our guide about common natural pet supplements.
How to serve tea to dogs?
The best way to serve tea to your dog is just how you would make your own – except skip out the milk and sweeteners. Dogs are lactose intolerant, so frequent consumption of milk and sugars can contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Instead, you could incorporate some flavour to make it extra special by adding a dash of cinnamon – it is suggested to have a whole range of additional health benefits, and some dogs have been reported to enjoy the taste!
We would advise that you serve the tea at room temperature, as a boiling hot cup of tea could harm your dog! Brew the tea and allow it to cool, or add some cold water before serving.
As mentioned about caffeine, it is better to offer your dog decaf versions of tea or herbal teas. You could use the loose leaf method and add herbs, flowers, or roots of herbal tea accordingly, depending on what you think your pup could specifically benefit from. Chamomile and Lavender are particularly good ones to add if they are a hyperactive or anxious dog, perhaps combined with Ginger root to alleviate any nausea.
This being said, making an ordinary cuppa is unlikely to have detrimental effects on your dog. As with many things in life, too much of anything is never a good idea – moderation is key!
How to make your own homemade caffeine-free tea for dogs
Whilst it is much easier to use pre-prepared tea bags, it can be fun to try and make your own. Plus, you can fully control what you add into the tea, creating a custom blend for your pooch’s needs.
What you will need:
- 1 teaspoon of dried or 3 teaspoons of fresh herb (e.g peppermint)
- ½ teaspoon of honey
- Cotton or muslin teabags
- 250mls of water
1. Choose your herbs – Decide which herbs you would like to use for your homemade tea recipe. Both dried and fresh herbs can work well, although you will need much more of the fresh herb to infuse into your tea. Peppermint is a commonly grown household herbs that can work particularly well in teas.
2. You can choose to create a herbal mixture, using two or more herbs in your tea. If you choose to do so, then try to identify one primary herb (e.g. Peppermint), and add your complementary herbs in a ratio of 2:1.
3. Once you have decided which herbs you are going to use, place a teaspoon of the dried herb mixture into a small muslin or cotton teabag. If you are making a pot of tea, then make sure you only add one teaspoon of dried herb mixture per cup of tea. If you are using fresh herbs, then you will need to add three teaspoons of fresh herb to the teabag.
4. Place your bag into around 250mls of boiling water and leave to brew. If it is a particularly warm day, try adding the teabag to some cold water with ice for an iced herbal treat.
5. Try sweetening your herbal tea blend with half a teaspoon of honey.
6. If making a hot tea blend, then let the brew cool down or add some cold water or ice cubes so your pup won’t burn themselves!
7. Remove the teabag.
8. Congratulations! Your tea is ready for your furry friend to enjoy!
If you do brew your own homemade tea for your dog, drop us a comment below - we would love to hear if your dog enjoyed the special treat!