My Dog Ate Protein Powder. What Now?

A common thread with dog owners: dogs eat whatever they get their teeth on, no matter what (except their medicine, of course). Have you discovered that your dog has eaten your protein powder? Here’s what you should know to help keep him safe and healthy in the aftermath!

If your dog has eaten protein powder, you can expect him to have some serious diarrhea and other GI issues, including vomit, lack of appetite, and general discomfort. You may also notice that he’s either wound-up or lethargic (or one, then the other), and he may even be a little aggressive or snappy if he’s in pain. Eating protein powder is, at best, uncomfortable, and sure to give him bathroom and attitude issues until he poops it out. At worst, it will require an expensive trip to the vet!

Can my dog eat protein powder?

Perhaps you’ve seen ads for protein powder for your dog, specifically. You can get protein powder that is designed specifically for dogs that will give them the same benefits that humans get but in a dog-safe manner. For instance, dog protein powder wouldn’t contain any of the dangerous ingredients in human protein powder (more on that in a minute), and they would be free from flavors, additives, and other fillers that are just there for human needs. 

Protein powder can be a good thing for dogs in some cases, but you’ll always want to check with your vet to make sure that your dog gets the right ingredients to treat the right issues, at the right dosage.

Why can’t dogs eat regular protein powder?

Simply, dogs can’t eat regular protein powder because it’s designed for human needs, tastes, and bodies. It isn’t designed with your dog in mind, so most manufacturers will add in flavors, additives, and more to make it as appealing to humans. Those ingredients, harmless to humans, can be dangerous to your dog.

Is protein powder bad for dogs?

There are some types of protein powder that can have mild effects on your dog, depending on how much he ate, but nothing worse. In this case, the protein powder wouldn’t technically be considered “bad” for your dog. It just wouldn’t be something that you should give your dog knowingly. 

Most of the time, though, protein powder can have serious side effects on your dog’s health and wellbeing. This could be due to a few reasons:

  • The amount of nutrients/vitamins/minerals, etc
  • Flavor and additives
  • The amount of powder he eats

The amount of nutrients/vitamins/minerals

Human protein powder is made for human proportions. You know how most powder comes with instructions on how to prepare it and how much is too much? That’s because it’s chockablock with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, etc. If you have too much within a serving, you’ll overload yourself on those active ingredients and can cause harm to yourself.

Your dog has the exact same issue, except he is smaller than you! It takes far less than a full serving of protein powder for a dog to potentially overdose on those active ingredients, and they can have a much stronger impact on your dog’s health than a human’s health.

Flavor and additives

To make protein taste good for humans, most manufacturers will add sweeteners, chocolate, and other flavor touches. These are delicious and harmless to humans, but very dangerous for your dog. More on this in the next section.

The amount of powder he eats

Also due to size, the amount of powder he eats will determine how bad his potential reaction is. This includes both the physical amount of powder he ate and how it relates to his size. Small dogs can ingest less than larger dogs, as you can probably guess.

What are the dangerous ingredients in protein powder?

The kicker with protein powder and protein shakes is that every flavor option within every line within every brand (and within every production year) is a little bit different. Here are some of the most common ingredients found and their potential issues for your dog:

  • Iron
  • Vitamin D
  • 5-HTP
  • Coffee/Tea/Caffeine ingredients
  • ALA
  • Glucosamine and/or MSM
  • Sweeteners (ex; xylitol)
  • Cocoa
  • Whey/protein

Iron

In higher doses (common in protein powders), too much iron can cause a severely upset stomach and even organ damage to your dog, which often is long-term/lifelong without vet attention.

Vitamin D

In dogs, too much vitamin d can increase the calcium level in the blood and can also cause kidney failure or liver failure since it can’t be simply urinated out like in humans.

5-HTP

This produces something called serotonin syndrome in dogs. It’ll cause the body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure to rise quickly, often leading to seizures and even blindness, though these are often temporary  

Coffee/Tea/Caffeine ingredients

Anything with caffeine or stimulants in it acts similar to the 5-HTP above. It also leads to frantic behavior and serious nervous energy in your dog that can sometimes make him aggressive (think of it as a high).

ALA

Also known as antioxidants, this can create a sudden drop in blood sugar level in your dog, leading to extreme fatigue or lethargy and even liver damage, long-term. 

Glucosamine and/or MSM

This can quickly cause issues such as dehydration, nose bleeds. And other signs of toxicity. It is often too much for dogs, even in small human-approved doses.

Sweeteners (ex; xylitol)

Any kind of false sweetener is very dangerous to dogs, especially because it takes only a very small amount to cause issues such as a life-threatening plummet in blood sugar and kidney failure or seizures.  

Cocoa

Similar to caffeine and 5-HTP, cocoa can create a fast, frantic heart rate and tremors in your dog simply because even a little bit is too much for your dog’s smaller size and different digestion. In some cases, since it’s so close to chocolate, it can even be poisonous.

If you take a look at the ingredients of MyProtein shakes, you’ll see a lot of them line up with those options above. The same goes for Pure Whey Protein ingredients. These are two of the most commonly used protein powders worldwide, and it just goes to show that even the popular ones don’t plan for production with your dog in mind!

Whey/protein

Humans have no issue with whey protein and it’s a popular ingredient in protein powder (both human and dog protein powder). However, dosage safety is very, very different. While dogs need protein as a key part of their diet, the amount is a fraction of what humans have. Since whey protein shakes are intended for humans, and most often used as a workout aid, they’re crammed full of protein. Even a small dose of whey protein powder — simply because of the percentage alone — can overdose your dog on protein.

What to do if my dog ate protein powder

If you’ve discovered that your well-intentioned dog has boggled your protein powder, the steps below will help you stay calm and stay in control of your dog’s safety and wellbeing.

Get the exact product information and how much your dog ate

As you’ve learned above, many protein powders are different from year to year and flavor to flavor. Accuracy is key, here, so you’ll want to get the exact information from your protein powder right down to the SKU if you’ve got it. This includes the brand name, flavor type, a list of all ingredients (active and inactive), and portion size. 

Call your vet and tell them everything

Because there are so many potentially dangerous ingredients and additives to protein powders, you’ll definitely want to call your vet and tell them what happened. Most often, they’ll ask for the above information, so have it ready. Most of the time, they will tell you to bring your dog in, especially if he ate a lot, and you’ll want to bring your protein powder information with you, too.

Watch closely for reactions and symptoms

If you don’t bring your dog into the vet, or it’s the middle of the night and you want to avoid emergency vet service, you’ll want to watch for serious symptoms that your dog is having a serious reaction (and need immediate medical intervention). These can include:

  • Severe and extreme diarrhea
  • Severe and extreme vomiting
  • Bloody discharge from the bum or nose
  • Extreme lethargy and fainting
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Other symptoms of extreme distress or pain

The bottom line with dogs and protein powder is that they don’t mix well, even if it’s a flavor other than chocolate. Unless your vet has approved a specific diet including protein powder, never deliberately allow your dog to eat it, and protect his health by keeping it far out of reach!

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