No responsible pet parent consciously decides to give their dog alcohol, but when we drink, our thought processes aren’t necessarily as crisp. That means accidents happen, and we may stumble upon our four-legged friends lapping up the contents of a Solo cup or wine glass.
“A dog that drinks alcohol is at risk for some serious health-related side effects,” says Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist at the Pet Poison Helpline. In fact, consuming alcohol can even be fatal in some dogs. How fast you act can dictate the severity of the consequences.
We asked the experts what to do if a dog drinks alcohol, signs to watch for, and how to help your pet.
Can Dogs Drink Alcohol?
A better question might be “Can dogs drink ethanol?” Ethanol is the compound produced when yeast ferments the sugars found in things like grains (beer), grapes (wine), or agave (tequila). Notably, ethanol is also present in other common household products, some of which are consumable (like cooking extracts and mouthwash) and some of which are not (antifreeze, rubbing alcohol).
While dogs are able to metabolize ethanol, which means the alcohol your dog drank will leave his system eventually, it doesn’t mean it won’t wreak havoc while it’s present, Schmid says.
The two biggest factors in determining the severity of alcohol poisoning in dogs, Schmid says, are the amount of alcohol consumed and the dog’s size.
“In toxicology, we have a saying: ‘The dose makes the poison,’” she says. “With alcohol, it matters how much they get into, as well as the animal’s size. A Lab would be able to consume more than a Chihuahua.”
Other important factors include the dog’s age—younger and older dogs are more susceptible than those in their peak adulthood—and his overall health profile.
Dogs and Alcohol: A Closer Look by Type
Can Dogs Drink Beer?
Beer has a percent of ethanol by volume between 4 and 6, which is considerably less than other alcoholic beverages. However, that’s still more than enough to cause problems for your dog. On top of that, beer is very rarely mixed with another non-alcoholic beverage the way we might with liquor, so Schmid says a neglected beer will sometimes introduce a similar amount of ethanol as a stronger mixed drink might to a curious canine.
But the problems with beer don’t end there. Hops, which are flower buds used as flavoring agents in all types of beer, can potentially be toxic for dogs, says Dr. Gabrielle Fadl, director of primary care at Bond Vet in Brooklyn, New York.
Then there’s the case of non-alcoholic beer. Despite the descriptor, these still may contain trace amounts of alcohol, says Fadl. This means pet parents drinking them should exercise the same caution as those who consume the more popular alcoholic version of the beverage.
Can Dogs Drink Wine?
Even a single grape can be fatally toxic to a dog. So can a raisin. But when it comes to wine, Schmid says the fermentation process might actually neutralize that effect, though there’s still some uncertainty in the veterinary research community about this.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that wine is safe for dogs. Fadl adds that the effects of the alcohol in wine, which has 10 to 20 percent ethanol by volume, would likely hit the dog and create a more acute medical problem well before anything associated with the grapes in wine.
Can Dogs Drink Liquor?
Spirits contain significantly more ethanol by volume than beer or wine. Vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila, and gin all come in between 40 to 50 percent ethanol by volume. This of course means the ill effects of alcohol poisoning will likely hit faster and harder than with most other drinks. However, Schmid says context matters when it comes to how serious alcohol poisoning by liquor might be for your canine companion.
“Straight liquor is naturally going to be a more serious situation than a mixed drink cocktail,” she says. But both will most likely require immediate medical attention.
Dog Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms
The most immediate symptoms of alcohol poisoning in dogs resemble those of alcohol poisoning in humans, Schmid says. “They may appear dazed or sedate and have some difficulty walking.”
Vomiting, she adds, is a common symptom for any pet poisoning, including from alcohol. Dogs with alcohol poisoning may have dulled reflexes, increasing their risk of aspirating (inhaling) their vomit. This can lead to aspiration pneumonia, a serious condition. Alcohol ingestion can also lead to a rapid decline in blood glucose levels. “When that occurs, you might observe seizures, body tremors, a declining body temperature, or respiratory distress,” she says.
“Symptoms can develop as early as 15 minutes after consuming alcohol or up to an hour afterward,” Fadl adds.
What to Do if Your Dog Drank Alcohol
If you know your dog consumed even a small amount of alcohol, or he is exhibiting some of the signs of drunkenness listed above, Fadl says it’s important to call an emergency veterinarian or a pet poison helpline right away.
“For mild ingestions and minimal symptoms, you might be advised to keep a close eye on your pet at home,” she says. “Keep them somewhere warm, keep plenty of drinking water available, and block off stairs or other areas where your dog could fall and become injured.”
When symptoms are more severe or the amount of alcohol consumed is greater, emergency care is advised. Schmid says it’s a good idea to have treats on hand in case there’s some delay getting to a clinic, because they can help keep your dog’s blood sugar levels in a healthy place.
“Once at a clinic, a vet will check those levels, as well as your dog’s oxygen, and supplement them if necessary to keep them stable,” she says. Additionally, medication can be given to stop any vomiting and IV fluids can be administered to keep your dog hydrated.
In most cases, veterinary professionals will continue to monitor your dog until his levels have stabilized and the effects of the alcohol have worn off. Schmid says this may take anywhere between 12 to 36 hours, depending on the dog and the amount of alcohol consumed.
If overnight monitoring is not an option, the medical team will likely increase the amount of fluids administered on site and provide you with a detailed care plan to make sure there’s no backsliding at home. Schmid says this is not most veterinarians’ preference, but it may be unavoidable in certain cases.
How to Prevent a Dog from Drinking Alcohol
To help prevent a dog from drinking alcohol, use common sense: Don’t leave drinks in a place where your dog can easily lap them up. If you want to show off your cuddly canine during a party, you should specifically request that your houseguests keep drinks out of your dog’s reach, Fadl advises. Make it easier for them to do so by clearing off high tables, mantels, or shelves where everyone can safely place their drinks.
But if you and other revelers can’t ensure that alcoholic beverages—not to mention any other foods or favors that pose a risk—are completely out of your dog’s reach, you should keep your pet off the guest list.
“When in doubt, it’s safest to keep your pet confined to a safe, private room during a party,” Fadl says.