My Dog Drank Alcohol! Here’s What to Do (Our Vet Answers)

While the majority of pet parents know not to give their canine friend alcoholic drinks, alcohol poisoning in dogs is not uncommon. Although dogs don’t tend to be drawn to alcoholic drinks, there are exceptions! An undiscerning Labrador meets a sweet-smelling cider, for example.

Alcohol is also found in many places that pet parents may not have considered, such as:
  • Desserts
  • Tinctures
  • Mouthwash
  • Cleansing wipes, hand sanitizers, rubbing alcohol
  • Windshield washer fluids
  • Raw bread dough

It is important to be aware that dogs can also absorb alcohol through the skin. Overdosing with alcohol-based flea sprays for pets can also cause toxicity.Divider 1

Is alcohol dangerous for dogs?

Alcohol is toxic to dogs and alcohol poisoning can have very serious consequences. You should never intentionally give your dog alcohol. If you’ve ever wondered if giving your dog alcohol will calm them down, or if it will be amusing, then the answer is a definite no! Not only this, but alcohol is poisonous to dogs and you risk harming them. So, you ask, what if my dog accidentally drank wine? If your dog accidentally ingests any form of alcohol, here’s what to expect and most importantly, what to do.

alcohol
Image Credit: [email protected], Wikimedia Commons

What are the symptoms of alcohol toxicity in dogs?

As cautious as we all are with our pets, accidents can happen. You accidentally leave a half full glass of wine out; your dog manages to eat some raw bread dough or your dog accidentally laps at some mouthwash. There is the added consideration that diet alcoholic beverages, or mixers, may also contain Xylitol. This, too, is toxic to dogs. So, how much alcohol is too much? As with humans, it is the amount of alcohol consumed that matters. Figuring this out is tricky, so leave it to the experts! If you suspect your dog has consumed any amount of alcohol, then contact the pet poison helpline or your veterinarian right away.

Symptoms will vary depending on how much alcohol is consumed, the weight of your dog, their age and their overall health. Young puppies, small breeds and animals with underlying health conditions are at greatest risk.

Signs generally start within 30-60 minutes of ingestion, but can start sooner if your dog has an otherwise empty stomach. Alcohol poisoning can cause hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar), hypothermia (low body temperature) and hypotension (low blood pressure). In severe cases it can be fatal, usually due to respiratory failure (stopping breathing).

If your dog does accidentally consume some alcohol, here are the warning signs to look out for:
  • Lack of co-ordination
  • Drooling and /or vomiting (since alcohol is irritating to the gastrointestinal tract)
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Bad breath (alcohol smell)
  • Lethargy (reduced activity/ sleepiness)
  • Tremors
  • Weakness and/or collapse
  • Slow heart rate
  • Slow breathing
  • Seizures

If you notice any of these, or have any other concerns, then please contact your veterinary clinic immediately.

Divider 4My dog drank some alcohol: what should I do?

If you know or suspect that your dog has consumed some alcohol, make sure they cannot access any more. Next, contact your veterinary clinic for advice. If they are closed, call the emergency clinic. If possible, be ready to tell them what your dog has consumed, how much and when. Let them know your dog’s weight and if they have any underlying health conditions. Depending on how much your dog has eaten or drunk, you may be asked to monitor them at home. However, in many cases, your veterinarian will want to examine your dog straight away.

If your dog is already showing symptoms of alcohol toxicity, then get them to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. Always call the clinic to let them know you are coming, so that they can be prepared.

Sick Dog
Featured Image Credit: Petteri Sulonen, Wikimedia Commons

What is the treatment for alcohol poisoning in dogs?

Treatment is mostly supportive. If you have unwittingly sprayed too much alcohol-based flea killer, hand sanitizer, or rubbing alcohol on your dog, wash it off immediately with mild shampoo. Speed is important! If you manage to get your dog to a veterinarian quickly enough, then they can make your dog vomit. Due to the speed at which alcohol is absorbed, this is only really an option within 40-60 minutes of ingestion. You should never try to make your dog vomit at home without consulting a veterinarian. There is a risk of your dog breathing in the vomit, and inducing vomit is not always a safe option.

Even if your dog is showing no symptoms, your veterinarian may want to admit them to hospital. They will likely place them on a fluid drip. This is to help your dog eliminate the alcohol from their system and to keep them hydrated. In more serious cases treatment can involve warming apparatus to maintain body temperature, giving oxygen through an oxygen tent or mask and medications to control seizures. Your veterinarian may also want to take blood samples to monitor your dog’s progress.

Divider 2Is alcohol fatal to dogs?

Sadly, yes, it can be. Dogs absorb alcohol rapidly via the stomach and through the skin. This means the quicker you react; the better chance your dog has. It is possible for alcohol poisoning in dogs to be treated with a full recovery. The outcome will depend on how much alcohol was consumed; the size and age of your dog; any underlying health conditions and when treatment is started.

As with most things, prevention is better than cure! There are plenty of things you can do to help prevent your dog from ever experiencing alcohol poisoning. Remember, you should never knowingly give your dog alcohol. Store alcohol containing products well out of reach of your pet.

Don’t leave your dog unattended with alcoholic drinks or desserts, you never know what they might be tempted by! If you are having a party, talk to your guests so they understand the need to be careful too. In case of spills, make sure you move your dog to safety before mopping up. If you are baking, always keep rising dough well out of reach of your pet. The smell can be very enticing! It is best to use ‘pet safe’ products for cleaning your dog.

Despite your best efforts, accidents do happen. If your dog does consume any alcohol, or you suspect that they might have, call your veterinarian straight away.


Featured Image Credit: 5598375, Pixabay