As we all start to get ready to share this holiday please remember your dogs, although you may enjoy the odd or many alcoholic beverages our dogs should not. It’s appalling, but some people actually enjoy giving their cat or dog alcohol and watching their reaction. This is so dangerous I cannot express to you enough how bad of an idea this is. Not every pet owner realizes that alcohol is toxic to dogs. Exposure to seemingly harmless amounts of alcohol can kill your dog.
Filling a pet’s water bowl with beer or wine isn’t the only way a dog or cat can be exposed to alcohol. They can also get exposure by drinking or licking up cooking products that contain alcohol, personal products such as mouthwash or perfume, cleaning products – or by getting into alcohol-containing cough syrups or other medications, even hand sanitizer.
Some alcoholic beverages are more dangerous to dogs than others. Beer contains the lowest concentration of alcohol, usually around 4%. Wine averages 10% alcohol by volume, but some hard liquor can be as high as 90% alcohol. Even small amounts of hard liquor can potentially kill a small dog. More reason to keep the liquor cabinet locked and pets in a safe place when entertaining. Keep in mind that all alcoholic beverages should be off-limit to pets regardless of the alcohol concentration.
As in humans, when a dog is exposed to alcohol, it causes depression of their central nervous system. In many ways, its effects on a pet’s nervous system are similar to that of humans. A dog slows down, becomes drowsy and loses their coordination. If they’re exposed to higher levels of alcohol, it can depress their nervous system to the point that their breathing and heart rate slow down, and their body temperature drops. Their blood chemistry is also altered, leading to a dangerous condition called metabolic acidosis where the blood becomes too acidic. At this point, without treatment, death soon follows usually due to cardiac arrest. Even if a dog doesn’t die from the acute effects of alcohol poisoning, it can be harmful to their kidneys and liver.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning
It can take several hours after ingestion for symptoms of poisoning to occur. Even if your dog appears fine at first, watch for these signs and contact a vet immediately if you notice them:
- Slow or uncoordinated movements or weakness
- Vomiting — it may contain blood if the dog has ingested a large amount of alcohol and it burns through the stomach lining
- Panting or difficulty breathing
- Painful abdominal area
- Dehydration or excessive water drinking
- Problems urinating
- Foaming at the mouth
It’s vital that you seek veterinary care as soon as you notice any of these symptoms to prevent further damage or death.
How alcohol poisoning is treated in dogs
Alcohol poisoning in dogs is treated in much the same way as any other toxic substance. The vet will run tests to determine the amount of ethanol in the dog’s bloodstream and then give activated charcoal to absorb as much of the alcohol as possible before it enters the bloodstream. The vet may also pump or flush the stomach to remove the toxic substance. Alcohol consumption causes quick and severe dehydration, so the vet will also administer fluids through IV to speed recovery.