What Happens When a Dog Drinks Alcohol?

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You wake up one morning to see that the half-full glass of wine you accidentally left out the night before is now empty, and no one is at home except for you and your pup — it's clear that your dog is the likely culprit that drank the alcohol. Questions race through your mind: Is your dog intoxicated? Does he have alcohol poisoning? Do you need to bring him to the veterinarian?

Hopefully, you'll never be in this situation, but knowing the risks involved and the steps to take if your dog were to ever sneak a sip can help keep your pup safe.

What Happens When a Dog Drinks Alcohol?

Just like chocolate and onions, alcohol is toxic to dogs. Even small amounts of alcohol — not only in drinks but also in syrups and raw bread dough — can have ingredients that are poisonous for them. Both ethanol (the intoxicating agent in beer, wine and liquor) and hops (used to brew beer) can cause dogs alcohol intoxication. Signs of intoxication can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • High body temperature
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive panting
  • Muscle tremors and seizures

In severe cases, or if left untreated, alcohol intoxication in dogs can cause failure of the organ systems and even death.

Friends toasting alcoholic beverages while man holds small terrier dog.

Is It Ever OK to Let My Dog Have a Sip of My Drink?

While it might seem harmless to let your dog take the tiniest sip of your wine, beer or mixed drink, the bottom line is that it's never OK to let your dog drink alcohol. It's never acceptable to put his health at risk, no matter how amusing it may seem at the moment. As a pet parent, it's your responsibility to keep your pooch safe, and that includes keeping him away from alcohol.

What Should I Do If My Dog Accidentally Drinks Alcohol?

If despite your best precautions, your dog somehow drinks alcohol, the first thing you should do is alert your vet and get recommendations on how to proceed. Depending on the alcohol content and the amount they consumed, some vets might ask you to take your dog in for a checkup immediately; others may suggest waiting it out to see if your dog has a reaction before coming in.

Usually, if your dog drinks more than one small sip of alcohol — or, if you don't know how much he drank — it's best to bring him to the vet right away. If the vet's office is closed, you should head to an emergency veterinarian center. A dog with alcohol poisoning needs to be treated immediately. You'll want to call your vet or the emergency clinic on your way there to let them know that your dog accidentally drank alcohol; that way, a vet can be ready for you as soon as you arrive.

Preventing Your Dog From Drinking Alcohol

Here are some basic tips to prevent your dog from consuming alcohol in the future.

  • Keep all forms of alcohol stored out of reach of your dog: Whether in a refrigerator, in a cabinet, or stored up, hiding your alcohol will prevent a curious pup from sinking his teeth into a can or knocking over a glass bottle.
  • Do not leave alcoholic beverages unattended: If you walk away from your glass for some reason, make sure that it is out of reach to prevent him from taking a couple of laps before you return. Make sure to throw out or put any left over alcohol in the fridge before going to bed at night.
  • Talk to your guests: If you are having a social gathering around your dog, make sure they all understand that it is not okay to give your dog a drink at any time. In the cases where you or any guests might be heavily intoxicated and might forget this advice, it might be best to lock your dog in a secure area away from guests to avoid any accidental alcoholic consumption
  • Spills: In the case of spills be sure to get your dog away from the accident as quickly as possible and worry about cleaning up after. While a wine-stained rug can be replaced, your dog cannot.

Now that you know what happens when a dog drinks alcohol, do all you can to keep your pooch away from liquor at all times. No matter how curious Fido gets, it's never OK to share! If an accident does happen, though, now you'll know what to do.

Erin Ollila

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