Death by Caffeine: Presumptive Malicious Poisoning of a Dog by Incorporation in Ground Meat

S. N. Tawde, Birgit Puschner, T. Albin, S. Stump, Robert H Poppenga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: A 4-year-old, 37 kg, male German shepherd developed hyperthermia, tachycardia, and agitation following consumption of ground meat found in the backyard of its owner. When presented to a veterinary clinic, plasma ethylene glycol (EG) testing was positive, and the dog was given ethanol and lactated Ringer's solution intravenously. Approximately 11 h postexposure the dog died. Discussion: Among tissues submitted for toxicological analysis, urine was negative for EG, ground meat was negative for certain drugs of abuse, and gastric contents were negative for zinc/aluminum phosphide and metaldehyde. Analysis of gastric contents by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry confirmed the presence of caffeine. Caffeine concentration in the ground meat was estimated at 1 %. Caffeine is a methylxanthine alkaloid with a reported canine oral median lethal dose (MLD50) of 140 mg/kg (range 120-200 mg/kg). A commercially available 200-mg tablet formulation of caffeine was considered to be a possible source but this was not confirmed. By conservative estimates, the dog would need to ingest approximately 500-550 g of the meat to reach the MLD50. Acute intoxication affects the cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurologic, gastrointestinal, and metabolic systems. Although no tablet remnants were observed in the bait, tablets could have been crushed and/or dissolved. Other potential caffeine sources include guarana, brewed and concentrated coffee, and caffeine-containing beverages. Based on the history, clinical signs, and the detection of caffeine in the gastric contents and meat, a presumptive diagnosis of malicious caffeine poisoning was made. A suggested treatment regimen for caffeine intoxication in dogs is described. While few cases of accidental ingestion of caffeine by dogs have been described, the intentional use of a concentrated caffeine source to cause mortality in a dog has not been previously reported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-440
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Medical Toxicology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2012


  • Bait
  • Caffeine
  • Ground meat
  • Poisoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology


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