Dogs and Alcohol Toxicity: What happens if your dog drinks alcohol?

Dogs and Alcohol Toxicity: What happens if your dog drinks alcohol?

When we think about poisoning in our pets, the first things that come to mind are human foods and pesticides such as rat baits and weedkillers. One poison that we often overlook, perhaps because it is so ubiquitous, is alcohol. Like humans, dogs are sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Whilst we don’t typically think of alcohol being a poison, the ingestion of enough of it can result in sedation, unsteadiness on the feet, vomiting, low body temperature, depression of the breathing, increases in the acidity of the blood, low blood sugar, coma, seizures and death.

Is alcohol poisoning common in dogs?

So how common is it for dogs to get into alcohol? Fortunately, the ingestion of alcohol in dogs is not on our top 10 list at the Australian Animal Poisons Centre. Most owners are aware that giving their dogs alcohol is not a good idea. Every now and then though, accidents do happen, and the ingestion of concentrated alcoholic solutions can cause significant harm. In addition to this, the rise of alcohol-based hand sanitisers (which often contain more than 70% ethanol) have resulted in an increase in the number of cases of dogs becoming exposed to alcohol.

The ingestion of raw bread dough with yeast is another way that dogs can get poisoned by alcohol. As the yeast ferments in the stomach, it produces alcohol as a by-product which is absorbed across the stomach wall into the circulation. The ingestion of raw bread dough with yeast also poses the problem of gastrointestinal obstruction, as the dough expands to many times its original size in the warm moist environment of the stomach. Alcohol toxicosis may also occur after the ingestion of sourdough starter that contains baker’s yeast.

All dogs that are displaying signs of alcohol toxicity, or those that have ingested an amount that is likely to result in alcohol toxicity should be immediately taken to a veterinary clinic. Treatment of alcohol poisoning in dogs is primarily supportive care (that is, treating any symptoms that may arise to support your dog through the poisoning until the alcohol is metabolised). Treatment may include the administration of intravenous fluids and electrolytes to maintain adequate hydration and electrolyte balance, warming your dog if they are hypothermic, monitoring and treatment of low blood sugar and monitoring and protection of the airway in severe cases.

To reduce the risk of alcohol poisoning in your dog, remember to keep all alcoholic beverages and other products (such as hand sanitisers) out of reach. This includes handbags which all to often contain bottles of instant hand sanitiser. Never feed your pet raw bread dough or yeast products.

What to do if your dog ingests alcohol or yeast products?

If your dog has ingested any alcohol or yeast product, please call the Animal Poisons Centre on 1300 869 738 (from Australia) or 0800 869 738 (from New Zealand). Our service is free for all Australian and New Zealand pet owners.