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Why your dog should never ingest alcohol

Why your dog should never ingest alcohol

Health & Safety

Most dog owners have a basic understanding of the most dangerous, toxic and risky things that dogs may potentially eat or drink, and work hard to ensure that their dogs don’t get their paws on anything bad, and some of these are particularly obvious-like alcohol.

Nobody with any sense would give their dog alcohol deliberately of course, but dogs can be quite tenacious about eating and drinking things that appeal to them or that they are told they cannot have, and alcohol can turn up as an ingredient in a surprising number of things!

Additionally, a few decades ago, some dog owners would give their dogs the top from a dark beer or even slops from a drip tray to drink in the mistaken belief that this would give them a glossy, healthy-looking coat, something that older people will sometimes still talk about today.

However, alcohol is of course a poison, which has no benefits whatsoever for dogs, and can actually make them extremely ill, and all dog owners should learn a little bit about how and why this can happen, and why keeping your dog and your drinks well apart Is so important.

In this article we will answer the question of why your dog should never ingest alcohol in more detail, and share some information on what to do if this does happen. Read on to learn more.

What’s the problem?

People drink alcohol for a variety of reasons including liking the taste of the drink and enjoying the effects that alcohol can have on the mind and body-however, we all know that drinking to excess can lead to a hangover, which can sometimes be very acute! Alcohol poisoning is a recognised condition in people and a hangover is ultimately a reasonably low level of alcohol poisoning-in more acute cases it can pose a real risk to life and even prove fatal.

Excessive alcohol ingestion over the long term can also lead to a wide range of chronic health problems including liver failure, gout and a range of other serious and debilitating illnesses, which cannot always be reversed or cured.

This is because alcohol contains ethanol, and this is the ingredient that both causes the good feelings that a few drinks can provide, as well as the sickness and health problems that can be caused by too much!

Dogs are of course smaller than people, and so the effects of alcohol are more acute in dogs, and even a small amount can be very dangerous for smaller dogs, and even very large breeds too.

There are no benefits of alcohol for dogs, and alcohol ingestion is apt to make your dog very sick, and may even prove fatal.

How much alcohol is dangerous?

There is no safe amount of alcohol for dogs, but of course, if your dog manages to drink some or eat something containing alcohol, the strength of the drink and the size of the dog will dictate how much of a problem it causes.

A large dog that simply licks up a small puddle of an average-strength beer will likely be fine, although they may show the effects of alcohol ingestion and get a hangover too. However, for smaller dogs, even a small amount of alcohol can be potentially fatal, and at best is apt to make your dog very sick.

What are the symptoms of alcohol poisoning in dogs?

If you know or suspect that your dog has drunk alcohol or eaten something containing alcohol in anything higher than trace amounts, they are apt to display a range of symptoms. These may include:

  • Vomiting within a couple of hours of ingestion.
  • Confusion and disorientation.
  • Hyperactivity soon after ingestion.
  • Staggering and a general lack of coordination.
  • Lack of focus and slower than usual reactions.
  • Fainting and loss of control of bodily movements.
  • Hyperventilation and heavy panting.
  • Excessive drooling and salivation.
  • Lethargy and slow responses after the initial period of ingestion.
  • Dehydration and a high level of thirst.
  • Diarrhoea and other stool changes.
  • In severe cases that cause acute alcohol poisoning, your dog may potentially have seizures and become unconscious, which can segue into a coma from which your dog may not recover.

What to do if your dog has ingested alcohol

Even if you own a reasonably large breed of dog like the Labrador retriever, it is important to remember that dogs have no tolerance to alcohol and also, has a different physiology from us, and will both react differently, process it differently and also, display different traits.

Contact your vet immediately if you know or think your dog has ingested alcohol-don’t wait to make the call, because your vet may ask you to bring the dog in immediately so that they can induce vomiting, and there is only a short window of time within which this will work. You should never induce vomiting in your dog at home without your vet telling you to.

If your dog ingested a lot of alcohol, it was some time ago, or you are not sure what has happened, the best place for your dog is likely to be at the clinic, so that they can assess the problem and provide supporting care and act to minimise damage and prevent serious problems.

If possible, let your vet know what type of alcohol they drank (both the alcohol percentage, so your vet can assess the risk, and what type of alcohol it was, in case of other risks such as chocolate or herbs that may be harmful) and follow their advice.

Alcohol poisoning or potential poisoning in your dog is a serious thing, and taking the wait and see approach is not appropriate.