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What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol is absorbed into our pet’s bodies in as little as 30 minutes. The gastrointestinal tract rapidly absorbs this toxic substance, as does the skin. Products like rubbing alcohol, antifreeze, and even fermenting bread dough can cause poisoning in dogs. Most cases of alcohol poisoning in canines results from the ingestion of alcoholic drinks left unattended or spilled, though our pets are curious by nature and can easily become poisoned by ingesting other types such as antifreeze (which is quite palatable to dogs). Documentation has recorded many cases of toxicity resulting from dermal exposure as well, due to overuse of alcohol based flea sprays and alcohol containing detergents. As with any other household hazard, products containing alcohol must be kept out of reach of children and animals; incidences of severe poisoning can result in symptoms as dangerous as seizures and breathing difficulties which require a hospital stay and supportive measures in order to eliminate the toxin.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a dog ingests substances containing ethanol (like alcoholic drinks and liquid medications), isopropanol (such as flea sprays that are alcohol based), and methanol (as in windshield washer antifreeze). Toxicity occurs rapidly as the alcohol is quickly absorbed into the dog’s system.

Alcohol Poisoning Average Cost

From 42 quotes ranging from $250 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning in Dogs

Dogs who have consumed toxic amounts of alcohol will begin to show the effects within 30 to 60 minutes. Symptoms can range from a mild intoxication to severe inebriation that can be life threatening. If you suspect that your dog has ingested a product like rubbing alcohol, uncooked bread dough, or cough medicine, or if is reacting to a shampoo, a visit to the clinic is needed. Your dog may show the following signs of poisoning.

  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Inebriation
  • Loss of bodily control (ataxia)
  • Diarrhea
  • Hypersalivation
  • Excitement which changes to depression
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dehydration
  • Slow heart rate (brachycardia)
  • Seizures
  • Heart rhythm problems

Death can occur due to:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Low body temperature
  • Low blood sugar
  • Metabolic acidosis (too much acid in the body)

There is also risk of aspiration pneumonia if your dog inhales his vomitus. Eye irritation can occur if liquid containing alcohol splashes into the eyes.

Types

Isopropanol (twice as toxic as ethanol)

  • Alcohol based flea spray
  • Some rubbing alcohols

Methanol

  • Windshield washer antifreeze

Ethanol

  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Some rubbing alcohols
  • Medications like cough syrup or decongestants
  • Fermenting bread dough
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Causes of Alcohol Poisoning in Dogs

  • Alcohol is absorbed very quickly by the canine body, whether it be dermal or by ingestion
  • Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, ethanol to acetaldehyde, methanol to formaldehyde, and isopropanol to acetone
  • The central nervous system experiences depression due to the alcohol
  • Hypothermia and hypoglycemia are secondary to the toxicosis
  • Alcohol is an irritant of the gastric mucosa which triggers vomiting
  • Excessive vomiting leads to dehydration
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Diagnosis of Alcohol Poisoning in Dogs

If you are aware or suspect that your pet has consumed or has been over exposed to a form of alcohol, immediate veterinary care is essential. Your dog may show signs as early as a few minutes after ingestion but do not wait for symptoms to appear before heading to the clinic. Bring the packaging with you (the bottle of cough medicine, the flea spray, or the rubbing alcohol container for example) as it helps the veterinary team to know exactly what type of alcohol poisoning they are dealing with.

Your veterinarian will take the vital signs of your pet which can indicate heart rate abnormalities or respiratory challenges. A blood test can indicate blood alcohol levels, which are extremely important to know as the team moves forward with the treatment plan. Your canine companion’s symptoms will indicate the level of intoxication, too and you may even smell the scent of alcohol on your dog’s breath.

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Treatment of Alcohol Poisoning in Dogs

The veterinarian will make stabilizing your dog the first priority. If the alcohol was consumed under 40 minutes prior, the veterinary team may induce vomiting (especially if your furry family member is asymptomatic). In addition, the readjustment of  body temperature and adequate ventilation are needed to bring your dog back to normal. Most dogs who succumb to alcohol poisoning do so because of dangerously low body temperature, respiratory distress, and low blood sugar. 

Intravenous fluids consisting of electrolytes will work to get your dog’s kidneys and urine outflow back to normal (as well as to aid in the elimination of the alcohol). Your dog may have been dehydrated which adds to the nausea created by the alcohol. Seizure medication and tracheal intubation may be needed if the symptoms are severe.If your pet has had a dermal exposure, his skin and coat will be gently shampooed.

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Recovery of Alcohol Poisoning in Dogs

Alcohol poisoning is known to affect the brain of an animal first, then the respiratory system, followed by the cardiovascular system. Recovery of these areas, as well as other bodily functions and normalcies, can take time. With a mild to moderate exposure, symptoms can be lessened within 4 hours. With a more serious case, a canine may have to be hospitalized for a minimum of 24 hours. Once home, your pet will benefit from a warm, quiet place to rest. Be vigilant in the future when storing products containing alcohol out of the reach of children and pets.

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Alcohol Poisoning Average Cost

From 42 quotes ranging from $250 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,800

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Alcohol 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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Pitshiu

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Four Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy, Loss Of Appetite

My dog got into the bottom of my margarita glass and lapped up about 1 tbsp of margarita with ice. What can I do to make her feel better?

Aug. 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is concerning that your puppy is showing these signs, as young dogs are prone to parasites and infectious diseases, and this may or may not be related to the margarita. If she is not vomiting or having diarrhea, you may be able to feed her a bland diet of boiled white chicken and boiled white rice, and see if that helps over the next 24 hours. If she starts vomiting, having diarrhea, or continues to be lethargic, then having her seen by your veterinarian would be best. I hope that she feels better soon.

Aug. 22, 2020

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Maltipoo

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Three Months

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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

Vomiting

My pup has licked the beer bottle and later on started getting constipated and had blood with his stool. He started shivering and later threw up twice. Not sure if he got alcohol poisoning or not

July 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is unlikely that the small amount of beer caused any toxicity, but puppies are very prone to infectious diseases. If he is vomiting and having bloody diarrhea, he needs to be seen by a veterinarian right away. They will be able to figure out what is going on and get treatment for him. I hope that he is okay.

July 25, 2020

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Boston Terrier

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Eleven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

Spilled vanilla extract on the floor wiped it up but he then licked the floor.

July 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, Your dog will mostly be just fine. If he had eaten a large amount you may see some GI issues. If your dog does start to show any symptoms, it would be best to see a vet. I would think that your dog will be perfectly fine.

July 22, 2020

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Harley

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Pomeranian

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9 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

my brothers friend gave my dog a sip of vodka lemonade last night and im not sure if i should be worried he seems to be fine and acting he's acting like his normal self. no signs of throwing up

Aug. 18, 2018

Harley's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

That small amount of alcohol or lemonade should not be toxic or harmful to Harley, especially if it has been some time since he drank it. It would be a good idea to avoid this in the future, however.

Aug. 18, 2018

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Bentley

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Bull arab

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5 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Sleepy
Distant

My dog ate spew that contained beer on Sunday. His been very distant and quite unusual. His very different towards food and but still drinks his water, Monday he was still acting quite unusual but ate his dinner. Tuesday morning didn’t want to eat his breakfast but ate it slowly during the day and then today (still Tuesday) his just vomited twice one after each other and now his asleep. I’m so worried, what might be wrong?

July 17, 2018

Bentley's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can be quite severe and if the vomit consumed was more alcohol than anything else Bentley may have some severe symptoms, plus any food in the vomit may have toxic constituents which may also cause severe symptoms (garlic, chocolate etc…). If Bentley is still showing symptoms after this amount of time you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination and try to keep Bentley hydrated in the meantime. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 17, 2018

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Arrow

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German Shepherd

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5 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Drunk
Can’T Walk Straight

Arrow got into some alcohol earlier this evening around 9:15-9:30. Noticed he was showing symptoms of being drunk ie not walking straight walking then immediately laying down. Gave me 1/4 cup of peroxide to help induce him to throw up whatever else was left in his system. Threw up about 3-4 times. Ate dinner no problem and had had some water. Should I take him I the vet? He is lethargic (possibly because it’s about 2.5 hours past his bed time) but after he ate he fell asleep. Should I let him sleep it off and see how’s he doing in the morning? Or take him to the vet immediately?

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Champion

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Pit bull

dog-age-icon

6 Months

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Moderate severity

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Shaking
Worms In Stool
Vomiting

My 6 month old puppy got into some alcohol two days ago and since last night he was throwing up. He is now shaking some. What should I do I have tried giving him pydialite. He got into some Smirnoff and some steel reserve.

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Emma

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Chihuahua

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Wobbly
Disoriented
Incoherent

I left a cup out from the night before with sparkling water and vodka. As i was leaving for work this morning I noticed something was wrong. She was barely able to walk and bumping into things, falling over. I noticed the cup knocked over, and then I knew. I panicked as it just kept getting worse, and she let me cuddle her which she never does. But it wasn't a cuddle so much as a limp body. She wouldn't, or couldn't respond to normal ques. We made an appointment for the vet for that afternoon but I couldnt wait. I took her in. They have her on fluids and kept her all day. Because there is no night staff I can pick her up tonight but they want me to take her back in tomorrow. I simply cannot afford this. I have no idea how much I'm going to have to pay but i know it will be alot. She's worth it of course, but I was wondering if i just stay home with her tomorrow, and maybe do the water and pedialyte throughout the day, if this might be ok. I dont' want to put her health at rick. But I also want to be able to pay this months bills. Any advice?

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Jasmine

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Maltese

dog-age-icon

9 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic
Not Eating
No Longer Like To Bark Very Much
No Longer Like To Go Out And Walk

My 8 pound Maltese Jasmine is having many problems. On Wednesday 6/5/2019 she was very lethargic and not at all her happy barking self. She is know to have luxating patella and was having trouble with balance and walking. She had no energy and is normally a very hyper dog. I took her to the the Vet and they ran x-rays to check the knees out, blood test and Addison's disease test. All tests cam back normal: no arthritis, blood work normal, Addison's disease negative. She is a volunteer at a local hospital and maybe she was poisoned by something she ate there on 6/3/2019? She may have had a spoonful of mixed alcoholic drink on 6/2/2019, but showed no distress until 6/5/2019. She is getting better but still very low energy compared to her old self. What are the chances she was poisoned if she did not show any symptoms until 6/5/2019?

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Scotty

dog-breed-icon

Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

6 Weeks

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

HI, my puppy ate a leftover chicken by my uncle after drinking. And now my puppy is vomiting. I suspect that the chicken has a little bit of alcohol in it. Now, he won't eat, just drinks small amount of water and he already vomited 3 times. I am so worried. What should I do?

Alcohol Poisoning Average Cost

From 42 quotes ranging from $250 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,800