Whilst it may seem like a fun, Instagrammable moment to share a beer with your dog, will your pet be able to drink alcohol without any adverse effects?
In short, and in definitive answer to the popular question can dogs drink alcohol, the simple response is no, absolutely not. Dogs have not developed in a way so that their bodies can process alcohol so that even a small amount can cause a great deal of damage to their bodies. The effects of alcohol poisoning in dogs can be far reaching and more pronounced than in humans. We look at those effects here and what to do if your dog drinks alcohol too.
Furthermore, we further investigate why exactly it is that dogs cannot drink alcohol and what alcohols to be particularly careful with when drinking around your dog. We also highlight the most common ways that dogs ingest alcohol other than misinformed owners giving it to them in a dog bowl.
So Why Is Alcohol Bad For Dogs?
Much like alcohol is bad for humans, it is also bad for dogs. This is because it can cause ethanol toxicosis or in other words, alcohol poisoning. This is particularly dangerous in dogs given that they are less predisposed to be able to deal with the effects and causes of alcohol poisoning than we are as humans.
One of the main reasons for this is simply down to their size. Think about how quickly a glass of wine can affect you, especially when you have not eaten for a number of hours. It can have a pretty dramatic effect on your body and brain pretty rapidly – from your overall mood to the result on your motor skills.
Then think about how your dog is more often than not at least half your size. Their ability to bat off the effects of alcohol are diminished from the outset therefore, before you even take into account that their kidneys are simply not designed to deal with booze in the first place.
Effects of Alcohol on Dogs
The effects of alcohol on dogs are mainly heightened versions of the ways alcohol affects humans. The effects are heightened owing, again, to the smaller body mass of dogs and their consequent lesser ability to fight off alcohol.
Therefore, one of the main ways to see immediately if your dog has ingested alcohol is to see if he or she is acting peculiarly. Just like humans start to stutter, slur and stumble, dogs will behave similarly and have been known to fall over just like owners can do when having drunk too much alcohol.
While it may be funny at first, much like it is in humans, your dog acting strangely due to being drunk, can have wider and more serious ramifications. As your dog has lost its ability to think clearly, he or she may forget to go outdoors to urinate or perhaps indulge in other bad behaviour like gnawing on furniture that they shouldn’t, or going where they are not allowed.
These happenings are perhaps nothing more than an annoyance, but your dog being drunk can have even more dangerous repercussions. He or she may run out of the house and put themselves in danger, whereas normally they would stay indoors very happily. Essentially, just as humans do not act rationally when drunk and are therefore prone to accidents, dogs are even more likely to act out and risk their lives in ways they would not do usually.
Another way that this can manifest itself is that your dog will forget what he or she is allowed to eat and what they are not. This can mean counter surfing to get titbits left out on coffee tables, dining tables and kitchen surfaces. This can be dangerous as dogs are likely to eat anything in sight. We all know that this can wreak havoc on their intestines at the very best, but can be lethal at the very worst. For instance, if they eat chocolate, food with plastic covers, brittle animal bones, or food on kebab sticks, they could need a visit to the vet not only for alcohol poisoning but also for procedures on their stomach to rid their insides or what they have ingested. These procedures can not only be expensive, they can be incredibly invasive and painful for your dog.
Another side effect of dogs drinking alcohol, that can cause a great deal of trouble for your dog, is vomiting. Much like in humans, vomiting can be a very unpleasant experience. However, in dogs it is not only unpleasant, it can be exceedingly perilous. Vomiting can lead to dehydration which can cause lethargy. In severe cases, this can lead to a rapid heart rate, a weak pulse and can even go on to cause shivering and unconsciousness.
Diarrhea is another effect of alcohol poisoning on dogs. The upset in the gastrointestinal balance that alcohol causes means that they have a dodgy tummy for a couple of days owing to an increased sensitivity in the stomach and intestine. While this can have obvious unsightly ramifications on your carpets and floors, it is also another symptom that can have serious repercussions. Not only is it incredibly uncomfortable for your dog, it can also lead to lethargy again as well as a loss of appetite which further worsens the upset tummy.
In the most serious of side effects of alcohol poisoning, dogs have been known to suffer kidney failure, liver failure and even heart failure. These obviously can all lead to death which is something that no loving dog owner ever wants.
Common Alcohols To Be Especially Wary
Humans are not particularly great at handling stronger liquors. Undiluted measures of vodka, rum, and whisky all come in at about the 37% alcohol content levels. This is so strong that it can have an immediate effect on us alone, let alone on your poor dog who is so much smaller than you. It is the sheer strength of these spirits that make them dangerous to your dog. Your dog’s kidneys are not developed to filter out any alcohol, so hard liquor is particularly troublesome or them to process.
Wine is a common alcohol that we all are likely to have in our homes but can dogs drink wine safely given that it only has about 14% alcohol content?
Again the answer is not only no because all and any alcohol is bad for dogs, wine is especially bad for dogs as it is made with grapes. Grapes are toxic to dogs for unknown reasons but it therefore makes wine a definite no no for our canine friends due to the double whammy of nasties contained in it for them.
Beer, whilst a relatively weak alcohol, is incredibly bad for dogs to drink. It is unknown why, but dogs are extremely allergic to hops. Hops are, in fact, toxic to dogs. If your dog eats hops or has beer, they will be likely to vomit and be unable to control their body temperature. This can lead to dehydration as well as have the potential to cause life threatening kidney damage. Therefore, those who like to take their dogs to beer gardens should be especially wary of what their dog is up to whilst enjoying a drink. Unassuming passers by have been known to give dogs sips of their own drinks si it pays to be vigilant.
Other Ways Dogs Can Ingest Alcohol
However as dog owners while most of us would never dream of intentionally giving our dogs alcohol, what are the ways that they can ingest it without our knowing?
Firstly, many cakes include alcohol and unfortunately many use extremely potent liquors. Rum cakes are a prime example of this. They are laced with rum which is about 38% alcohol so only a small amount of cake is needed to wreak havoc on a pup, should that pup help themselves to a slice that has been left out by an unaware owner.
Fruit cake is another example of a food that includes booze that owners should be very wary of leaving out in a home with a dog. Not only do they have brandy or cognac as one of their main ingredients, which is again a very potent liquor, fruit cakes also include raisins as one of their primary fruits. As a derivation of grapes, raisins are toxic to dogs and extremely dangerous. A trip to the vet should be seen as a very real option should you see your dog eat a lot of fruitcake as it is better to be safe than sorry. While your vet may prescribe a stomach emptying antidote, it is better than the alternative of waiting to see if your dog reacts fatally.
Ethanol is also an ingredient of some household goods that we should be wary of leaving near our dogs. Products that include ethanol that dogs could well eat would be items such as cough syrup or hand sanitiser amongst many others. We are all guilty of leaving these in less than safe places, but if you have a particularly hungry dog, you would do well to lock them away.
What To Do If Your Dog Drinks Alcohol
If your dog has very mild alcohol poisoning, or rather you have only seen them drink a small slurp of beer, it is probably best just to let them sleep it off in their bed, or in a similarly safe environment.
If you believe your dog to have drunk a great deal of alcohol, or a lot of a strong liquor, it is best to seek the counsel of a medical professional. Vets will know what is best for your dog when they have carried out a consultation on your pet. They will know what is the safest course is to follow to ensure that your dog does not become sick. Hopefully, they will just recommend sleeping it off too and nothing more invasive. However, if they believe your dog to be at particular risk, they may start your pet on a drip to up their fluids and address the loss of essential minerals and nutrients in their bodies. They may even suggest hospitalization – however cases of this are very rare.
The key is to have your dog seen as soon as possible to ward off any if the nastier effects that alcohol can have on dogs. The sooner they have their fluids upped and back to normal, the better.
The Bottom Line of Dogs Drinking Alcohol
Essentially, while dogs are anecdotally known to be eaters and drinkers of anything and everything, it can be very dangerous for them to eat or drink anything than the kibble and water left out for them by their owners.
Alcohol is a prime example of something that dogs definitely cannot and should not drink. We just have to look at the adverse effects that it can have on us as humans to see that alcohol cannot have good results for our pets. They are simply not made to deal with either the effects on their insides nor on their brains and their ability to think clearly. The list of wider repercussions caused by them acting strangely and out of character are endless.
However, accidents happen, so if you notice your dog eating or drinking something that he or she should not at a party, just keep a close eye on them to ensure their safety. As said, like with humans, sleeping it off is often the best course of action, but care should be taken with one of our most beloved members of our families.