Dogs can drink most types of tea in moderate quantities without ill-effects. But, dogs do not need tea.
For most dogs, plain fresh water is the only kind of hydration they need.
And, some added ingredients in tea can harm our dogs. For instance, if tea is sweetened with xylitol, or with a milk substitute that contains xylitol.
Plus, hot tea can burn your dog’s mouth. So, if you are offering them plain tea, make sure it is cold.
Can Dogs Drink Tea?
Tea is an iconic beverage.
Over 6.5 tons of leaves from the tea plant Camellia sinensis are brewed and enjoyed worldwide every year, making it the most widely consumed drink after water.
On any given day, 159 million people in America – more than half of the population – enjoys a drink of tea.
Unlike a lot of countries where tea is enjoyed hot though, American love their tea iced. 75 – 80% of all tea in the U.S. is served chilled.
Other Types of Tea
There’s also a lot of demand for herbal ‘teas’ made by steeping the leaves or flowers of other plants in hot water.
Such as chamomile tea and peppermint tea.
Different teas – hot, cold, black, green, herbal – all have the potential to affect dogs differently.
So we’ll look at whether each is safe in turn. Starting with the most widely drunk, which is black tea.
Black Tea and Dogs
Black tea is brewed from leaves of the tea plant, which have been allowed to wilt and oxidize before they’re dried.
The oxidation process turns them from green to black. It also increases the amount of tannins in the leaves, which give black teas their slightly bitter taste.
Lots of studies have been carried out to try and measure the health benefits of black tea for humans.
But they haven’t been replicated in dogs, so we don’t know whether dogs can gain any benefit from drinking black tea.
However, most dog owners are more worried about one particular risk to dogs from drinking tea.
And that’s caffeine ingestion.
When is Tea Bad For Dogs?
Dogs are much more sensitive to caffeine consumption than people are.
Over-consumption of caffeine can make dogs sick, and even be fatal.
But for lots of people, an aromatic hit of caffeine is exactly what draws them to tea!
So does that also make it dangerous to dogs?
Is Tea Toxic to Dogs?
A 6oz cup of black tea brewed for 5 minutes contains 25 – 61mg of caffeine.
Dogs begin to experience symptoms of caffeine toxicity when they consume 9mg of caffeine per pound they weigh, or more.
Even a small Labrador weighing 55lbs is going to fall far short of the toxicity threshold by taking a slurp of tea.
In fact, they would have to guzzle over 8 6oz cups before they experience adverse effects.
Which is good news, because it means that tea is not typically dangerous for dogs to get hold of.
Is Tea Good For Dogs?
Since it’s unlikely to be toxic to dogs, can tea even be good for them?
For humans, scientists are exploring and testing the ways that drinking tea can:
- Protect our hearts
- Prevent some cancers
- Slow the progression of age-related neurological conditions like Alzheimers
- Manage diabetes
- Accelerate weight loss
- Improve bone mineral density
- And support our immune systems
However, none of these benefits have even begun to be tested in dogs yet.
So we can’t assume that they also apply to our pets.
Dogs Do Experience Some Changes
But it’s important to bear in mind that dogs do feel some of the same changes that we do when they drink tea.
- An increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
- Feeling hyperactive and jittery.
And the truth is that they just don’t need caffeine to get them going.
So even though the risks of drinking black tea are small for dogs, since they don’t have anything to gain by it either, we think they’re best off sticking to water.
Can Dogs Drink Green Tea?
Green tea is brewed from tea leaves which were dried immediately after being picked.
Contrary to popular belief, green teas are not consistently or reliably less caffeinated than black tea.
In humans, green tea may facilitate weight loss by helping the body to burn fat.
However, consuming a lot of green tea (especially on an empty stomach) has also been linked to liver damage.
So, green tea is not a safe weight loss supplement for dogs.
They are unlikely to be harmed by consuming green tea in small quantities. But just like black tea, it doesn’t really deserve any place in their diet.
Can Dogs Drink Iced Tea?
Iced tea comes in many forms.
From heavily sweetened varieties flavored with peach or lemon, to plain unsweetened black teas served from a jug in a diner or cafe.
It’s vital that all dogs have access to regular drinks on a hot day, but ideally this should be fresh, plain water.
Sips of iced tea won’t hurt them, but the effect of caffeine on their heart may make an already hot and uncomfortable dog feel even more uncomfortable.
And sweetened iced teas present even more problems…
Can Dogs Drink Sweet Tea?
Teas sweetened with regular sugar aren’t toxic to dogs.
But, the frequency of obesity and related medical conditions like diabetes is increasing in the dog population.
Dogs are not adapted to consume refined sugars, and too much of them can increase the risk of these problems, or make them worse.
They can also contribute to tooth decay, and diseases like pancreatitis.
Finally, check closely (and check again) that your tea hasn’t been sweetened with xylitol.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is highly toxic to dogs. This is also a common ingredient in milk substitutes like almond milk, which can be used in tea.
Can Dogs Drink Chamomile Tea?
What about herbal teas like peppermint and chamomile?
These drinks don’t contain any caffeine at all, so they are safe in that regard.
Anecdotally, some pet owners report that chamomile supplements are effective at easing stomach upset in dogs.
Unsweetened herbal teas might also have some value for coaxing a reluctant or disinterested dog to drink more, especially when it’s important, like in hot weather.
However, chamomile can be toxic to dogs in large quantities, so supplements should always be given under veterinary supervision.
And refrain from giving chamomile tea to dogs who are already taking chamomile supplements.
What Should I Do If My Dog Drinks Tea?
As a rule, it’s unlikely that your Labrador will ever manage to drink enough tea to make themselves sick.
So if they steal a slurp of yours, there’s no need to take immediate action.
However, you should call a vet immediately if they drink iced tea sweetened with xylitol. This is a medical emergency.
Puppies of toy breeds are the most vulnerable to caffeine poisoning by drinking tea.
If you dog is exceptionally small, it is better to be safe than sorry if they drink tea.
Call your vet and let them judge the danger, rather than doing it yourself and risking heartache and guilt if you’re wrong.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Drunk Too Much Tea
It’s unlikely that your dog will ever manage to drink 10 cups of tea without you noticing.
However, if your dog has drunk tea keep a close eye on them for the following signs of caffeine toxicity, just in case the tea was unusually strong, or your dog is exceptionally sensitive to it:
- Excessive vocalizing
Additionally, the signs of xylitol poisoning by sweetened teas are:
- Weakness or lethargy
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Loss of coordination
If you notice any of these signs, call their vet straight away.
Should I Give My Dog Tea?
So we know the answer to “can dogs drink tea”, but should dog drink tea?
The only drink dogs need is clean, fresh water.
There’s no reason to supplement that with tea.
If your dog is reluctant to drink water, rather than brewing them a cup of tea, consider one of these alternatives:
- purchasing a water fountain to make drinking more appealing,
switching to a wet diet,
- or offering them a dog-safe bone broth a couple of times a day in addition to leaving water out.
Can Dogs Drink Tea – Summary
Drinking unsweetened tea is unlikely to harm your dog, but there’s little reason why they should make a habit of it.
For more information about which foods are safe for dogs, visit our Labrador Care hub.
References and Further Reading
- Chin et al. Caffeine Content of Brewed Teas. Journal of Analytical Toxicology. 2008.
- Hensel et al. Case Report: Fatal caffeine intoxication in a dog. Brazilian Journal of Veterinary Pathology. 2017.
- Sarma et al. Safety of Green Tea Extracts. Drug Safety. 2008.
- Tea Fact Sheet – 2019-2020. Tea Association of the USA Inc. 2020.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website