Alcohol Poisoning in Dogs
Pets can be attracted to our Friday night cocktails, especially when they’re mixed with sweet juices and liqueurs. If you suspect your pet has gotten into alcohol or is showing signs of alcohol toxicity, contact a vet as soon as possible. Continue reading to learn about the signs and treatment of alcohol poisoning in dogs and cats.
Unfortunately, a very small dog might come along and consumes a very large alcoholic beverage while we have our backs turned. Sometimes a very large dog manages only one lick of a drink (or a bite of a rum-soaked baked good) before you catch them. Let’s discuss when this might become a problem for your pet…
PLEASE NOTE: If you applied a flea spray to your pet and they exhibit any clinical signs as described below, bathe them immediately to rinse off as much of the product as possible and bring them to a vet immediately. Alcohol toxicity is time-sensitive and treating your pet as soon as possible can save their lives.
What type of alcohol is harmful to pets?
There are three types of alcohols that can harm your pet:
1. Ethanol (acetaldehyde) – converted to acetic acid
- alcoholic beverages
- some rubbing alcohols
- fermenting bread dough
- many oral liquid medications
2. Methanol (formaldehyde) – converted to formic acid
- windshield washer fluid (antifreeze)
3. Isopropanol (acetone) – converted to carbon dioxide
- some rubbing alcohols
- nail polish remover
- some external flea sprays for pets
What are the signs of alcohol poisoning in dogs?
Alcohol toxicity can occur via oral ingestion or absorption through the skin.
The liver metabolizes the three type of alcohols listed above into three different metabolites that cause CNS (central nervous system) depression, disruption of heart functions, acidic changes to the blood, hypothermia (decreased body temperature due to heat loss via blood vessels which have become dilated), and hypoglycemia (decreased blood glucose levels).
Alcohols, even in small amounts, can also irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
Symptoms of alcohol toxicity in pets occur within 30-60 minutes of ingestion:
- Hypersalivation (excessive drooling)
- Ataxia (decreased coordination, drunken walk)
- CNS (Central Nervous System) depression
- Bradycardia (decrease in heart rate)
- Difficulty breathing
- Acidic blood (metabolic acidosis)
Alcohol toxicity in pets can be fatal depending on the severity of the hypoglycemia, hypothermia, respiratory failure, and/or metabolic acidosis. In addition, some may aspirate their vomit and develop aspiration pneumonia. Although primates can become blind from ingesting methanol, that is not the case in other mammals.
What should I do if my dog is showing signs of alcohol toxicity?
Do not give your pet alcohol. If by some chance your pet gets into alcohol, contact a veterinarian and a poison control center immediately. Hospitalization and stabilization may be necessary, and time is of the essence. Supportive care and monitoring are essential to ensure the best outcome for your pet.
Bathing an animal that has become intoxicated due to topical flea spray may be helpful if it was applied recently.
**Please also note that many drink mixers can contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that is toxic to dogs.
For more information, see our article on xylitol poisoning.
Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog's alcohol poisoning or another condition?
Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.