No party or social gathering is ever complete without alcoholic beverage to keep the mood up, the conversations going, and fuel the fun. While it is perfectly okay for us to drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, even the smallest amount can be deadly to our dogs. So to answer the question whether dogs can get drunk, the short and simple answer is a resounding “YES”!
Dogs and Alcohol = Lethal Combination
Alcoholic beverages are central nervous system depressants. This means that they dampen the activity of the brain, leading to a depression in many of the dog’s vital cerebral functions. Since the brain is the master controller of everything in the body, its depression can lead to a reduction or a loss of function in many of these organs.
For instance, the brain controls voluntary movement. Since there is cerebral depression, there will be involuntary movements in the dog. Your hound may look drowsy, confused, unable to coordinate its movements, or even lose consciousness. It can also induce fecal and urinary incontinence, leading to ‘accidents’. In worse cases, alcohol consumption by dogs can even lead to a heart attack secondary to electrolyte and pH imbalances. This can lead to coma and death can ensue within minutes.
The problem is not so much in the type of alcohol itself but rather in the amount of alcohol that was consumed in relation to the dog’s size. For example, a small sip of wine by a small dog will already be considered dangerous, yet perfectly fine for a large or giant dog breed.
This otherwise small amount of alcohol is the equivalent of several cases of beer per square inch of body area in humans. Since dogs have smaller body mass compared to humans, the effects of alcohol are readily apparent. Studies show that alcohol can start producing its central nervous system depressant effects in as short as 30 minutes for dogs that have not taken any meal. This is substantially lengthened to 2 hours for dogs that have consumed their meals. And while the presence of food in the dog’s stomach can help delay the onset of CNS depression, it is not enough to mitigate the ill effects of alcohol on the brain and the rest of the dog’s body.
Sadly, there really are no standards as to how much alcohol can be considered dangerous to pets. The most common recommendation today is to bring to the vet all dogs weighing at least 50 pounds that have consumed more than the standard equivalent of an alcoholic beverage.
That being said, there is no such thing as a safe alcohol level for dogs.
How Do You Know Your Dog is Drunk?
Among humans, it is quite easy to spot someone who is already drunk. For dogs, it may be a lot trickier, unless it was you who gave your pet the alcoholic beverage. Spotting a drunk dog should be pretty straightforward. Here are some of the things you may need to look for just in case you suspect your hound came home drunk.
- Drooling or excessive salivation
- Difficulty breathing or labored breathing
- Vomiting or making an attempt to vomit
- Retching or appearing to gag
- Very fast heart rate (initially at first, before becoming very slow)
- Bloating or distended tummy
- Unsteady gait and stance
- Decreased coordination
- Low blood pressure
- Collapse or appearing to fall to one side
- Unusually low body temperature
Hopefully you will notice these manifestations even before you reach the last item on the list – coma. If you saw your dog already in a comatose state, it’s only a matter of time before you will eventually lose your pet.
Aside from Alcoholic Beverages, What Other Items Can Get My Dog Drunk?
The notion that only alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, rum, and whiskey, just to name a few can get your dog drunk is utterly false. As a matter of fact, your dog doesn’t even need to sip from your bottle or wine glass. They don’t even need to lick the spill on the floor. There are many products that may actually contain alcohol. Examples of these include the following.
- Fruitcake or any other dish that contains alcohol
- Yeast dough or bread dough
- Rotten apples and other fruits
- Cough syrup
- Mouthwash or mouth rinses
- Medications and other pharmaceutical products
- Perfumes and colognes
- Inks and dyes
- Cleaning chemicals
Many of these items are frequently discarded in garbage cans. If your dog happens to go over these items and licks them, then there is a risk of alcohol or ethanol toxicity. There are also some pet parents who love to spritz some cologne onto their dogs. And while dogs don’t ingest these alcohol-containing perfumes right away, the fumes can be inhaled which can lead to the absorption and distribution of alcohol via the blood. Dogs can lick their coats, too, adding to the injury.
What Should I Do If I Think My Dog is Drunk?
There is only one thing you can do if you think your dog has inadvertently ingested an item that contains alcohol – call your veterinarian immediately. Or, better still, you can bring your pet to a veterinary facility for a more comprehensive evaluation.
Your vet will run some blood tests to help establish the amount of alcohol that is present in your dog’s system. This is crucial information since it forms the foundation for the most appropriate treatment for your pet. If you also have the information on what your dog ingested, this will also help in the more accurate diagnosis paving the way for a more responsive therapy.
Dogs are never intended to consume alcohol. Their small bodies and different physiologic functioning simply means that they get drunk way too easily compared to us humans. And while it is very tempting to give our pets a glass or two of our alcoholic beverage for the sole purpose of entertainment on YouTube, this should be avoided at all cost. Equally important is our vigilance on the things that our dogs can get into their mouths. Their world is littered with objects that contain alcohol. For us they are safe; for them, these are deadly.