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What is Ethanol Poisoning?

If you think your cat has ingested ethanol, it is important to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible, because if treated early there is a good chance the cat will recover.

Ethanol poisoning occurs in cats when they ingest a substance that either contains alcohol, such as a beverage or fuel, or produces ethanol inside the body after ingestion, such as uncooked pizza or bread dough. Ethanol is quickly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and goes to the brain.

Ethanol Poisoning Average Cost

From 368 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,000

Symptoms of Ethanol Poisoning in Cats

Ethanol poisoning may cause depression of the central nervous system, which may result in the following symptoms within an hour of ingestion:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Ataxia
  • Hypothermia
  • Sedation
  • Dehydration
  • Metabolic acidosis

The cat may become comatose and develop respiratory depression. The abdomen may become distended if the cat ingested uncooked bread dough. Cats may have kidney failure between 12 and 24 hours after ingestion. As soon as any of these symptoms are seen, a veterinarian should be called for diagnoses and treatment, but if you know your cat could be poisoned, you shouldn’t wait for symptoms.

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Causes of Ethanol Poisoning in Cats

Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, is a two-carbon alcohol that is contained in many household products. The most common causes of poisoning are antifreeze, hand sanitizer, and raw bread dough. Ethanol is quickly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and goes to the brain. How this happens is not clear, but research shows that ethanol may inhibit N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptors in the brain. This may affect the production of cyclic guanosine monophosphate causing the blockage of messages between brain cells. Cats may get ethanol poisoning when they eat one or more of the following household substances:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Perfume and mouthwash
  • Paint and varnish
  • Certain medications
  • Certain types of antifreeze
  • Uncooked bread or pizza dough
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Diagnosis of Ethanol Poisoning in Cats

It is not recommended to wait and see or to try to diagnose ethanol poisoning yourself because the symptoms are very complex and the cat may have more than one symptom that you cannot see. In some cases, obvious symptoms may subside while more severe injury is continuing internally. Only a veterinarian can thoroughly diagnose ethanol poisoning because, in most cases, cats are not observed ingesting ethanol. Your vet will collect blood and urine samples for analysis to determine if the kidneys are functioning properly. Urinalysis will help detect calcium oxalate monohydrate crystals and isosthenuria. Hyperechoic cortices may be detected with renal ultrasound. If the bladder is unusually small, it may mean the cat is producing less urine.

If you know that your cat has ingested any of the above substances, you should contact a vet before symptoms start to materialize. If you keep antifreeze in your garage, you should make sure it is properly stored and there are no leaks. If your cat roams the neighborhood, it might be a good idea to help your neighbors be aware of the dangers of unprotected antifreeze.

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Treatment of Ethanol Poisoning in Cats

The type of treatment used depends on several variables. For example, the amount of time that has elapsed since the cat ate the poison is the main factor in determining the treatment. The aim of the treatment is to decrease the absorption of the ingested ethanol by the intestines. Induced vomiting is one possible treatment if the cat reaches the vet within one or two hours after eating the poison. Once the poison is absorbed, liquids may be used to stop dehydration and increase urine production. The treatments for ethanol poisoning in cats are nonsurgical. However, a venous catheter may be placed to make sure the fluid therapy is working. 

Medication may be given intravenously for four or five treatments in six hours, followed by four more treatments in the next eight hours. Sodium bicarbonate may also be administered according to the body weight of the cat with the goal of maintaining the pH of the urine at a proper level.

If all of the poison has been absorbed by the body, kidney failure is possible. The prognosis for these cats is poor at best. The treatment at this stage may include fluids, electrolytes, and possibly dialysis.

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Recovery of Ethanol Poisoning in Cats

Ethanol poisoning kills quickly. If a cat receives treatment before the poison has affected the kidneys-- usually within three hours--  there is a good prognosis for a full recovery. The cat should be regularly re-assessed by the vet every 30 minutes during the initial treatment. After initial treatment, the cat should have ongoing fluid therapy. Your vet will continue to measure the blood, urine and body acidity until the danger has passed.

If the cat is successfully treated, there will be no relapse from the initial poisoning, but you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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Ethanol Poisoning Average Cost

From 368 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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Ethanol Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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cat

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My cat just lapped up a very small.amount of beer. It's 9pm here. He weights about 8 lbs. Will it be okay if wait till the morning to call the vet?

Dec. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

Whether or not we need to be concerned depends on the exact amount of alcohol consumed. The toxicity is dose dependent. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can start 15 minutes after consumption and may include slow breathing and an irregular heart beat. If a very small amount of alcohol was consumed (a few drops), she is unlikely to need medical care.

Dec. 28, 2020

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Kitten

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14 weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing, Eye Irritation

I accidentally spilled a shot glass full of vodka on the table and a little bit got on her face, mainly in her eye and a little hit on her nose. She sneezed quite a few times and her eye looks a little red. I washed her face with water to try and get a bit of it off, but I am nervous that her inhaling the liquid was an issue.

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my response, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that she is okay. If she is still having problems, Since I cannot see your pet, it would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be causing this, and get treatment if needed.

Oct. 13, 2020

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Domestic cat

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Eleven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Chronic Diarrhea

I use Mr. Clean on my floors (whole house). My cat has had loose stools for 4 years. Vet has been unable to find a cause. Lots of tests have been done. We’ve never discussed floor cleaning in my house however. The website for Mr.Clean says it contains alcohol ethoxylates. The bottle says it contains sodium hydroxide. Could walking on wet floors and licking feet pads have caused my cat’s problem?

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. . I am not sure if that would be the cause, but it would make sense to try to use another cleaner, and see if his stools improve. If he continues to have problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for him.

Oct. 17, 2020

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Nala

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mixed

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9 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Lethargy

9 week feral kitten had fleas. She weighs approximately 2lbs. Isopropyl alcohol 50% was applied sparingly on live fleas via q tip. Kitten now has diarrhea. Could this be caused by the alcohol? If so, what treatment to reverse this?

July 16, 2018

Nala's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

There are many causes for diarrhea in kittens, including parasites, intestinal infection, and food changes. It would be best to have a fecal sample looked at by a veterinarian, as they can identify any parasites that may be there and prescribe medication to get rid of them.

July 16, 2018

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Chezare

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Manx

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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2 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None So Far

I spilled my sanitizer when it was on the side of the table, and I don't know if my cat ate it. I saw it on his face and I wiped that off immediately. I need your help to tell me what to do next! Around 10 minutes ago. The sanitizer is CareOne Instant Sanitizer with 70% Ethyl Alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, Aminomethyl propane.

March 20, 2018

Chezare's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. The small amount of ethyl alcohol that may have ended up on Chezare's face should not cause any problems for him. It would be a good idea to monitor him for any signs of vomiting or diarrhea, and have him seen by your veterinarian if he is having those signs, or is lethargic, or doesn't want to eat normally.

March 20, 2018

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Balt

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Bengal

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking

I accidently rubbed rubbing alcohol on my cats fur and he might have licked some up. But I washed it off. He was shaking after the bath but that could have been from the shock of getting manhandled in the bath. He has not experienced any other symptoms. I only noticed that he doesn’t seem to be drinking that much or peeing but that could just be him.

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Linny

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Unknown

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

I rubbed some 70%ethyl alcohol on my hands and let it dry. Then, I fed my cat some treats and his tongue came in contact with my hand. Should I be worried? Im not sure if that would be enough to cause some symptoms.

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Picasso

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Grey short hair

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My cat had about 1-3 laps of a vodka cranberry. 7 hours ago, so far she seems fine she was playing and cuddling like normal and seems attentive. She’s eating and being her normal self. Should I be worried?

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Biscuit

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Orange. Not sure.

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8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None Yet

Hi, I accidentally spilled some hand sanitizer on my shirt and didn’t notice. I few minutes later my cat started licking the spilled sanitizer from my shirt. I noticed after about 5-10 seconds. It’s been about 10 minutes. Should I be concerned about poisoning? Thanks.

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Onyx

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DOMESTIC

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4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

I put on hand sanitizer and it dried. I touched my cats water bowl and refilled it. I am worried the sanitizer from my hands got on his bowl and he will ingest it. Will this cause harm?

Ethanol Poisoning Average Cost

From 368 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $5,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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