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.
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.
Can Dogs Drink Alcohol?
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.
Dog Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms
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 the 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 you notice any of these or have any other concerns, then please contact your veterinary clinic immediately.
What to Do if Your Dog Drinks Alcohol
If you know or suspect that your dog drank 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 that your dog drank alcohol, 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 drank alcohol and 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.
Dog Alcohol Poisoning Treatment
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 a 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 the 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.
Is Alcohol Fatal to Dogs?
Sadly, yes, it can be. Dogs can 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 your dog 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 drinks alcohol, or you suspect that they might have, call your veterinarian straight away.