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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 hand sanitiser and 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, 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 and ulcers 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 via the dermal route 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, assessing for any heart rate abnormalities or respiratory challenges. A blood test can assess liver and kidney function. Your canine companion’s symptoms will indicate the level of intoxication 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 120 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, 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

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Yorkshire stafford terrior

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Fourteen Weeks

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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

Excitement To Lethargy, Wobbly, Depression To Hyper Activity, Shallow Breathing, Irratic Heartbeat. Fear, Poor Motor Skills. Dialated Eyes, Confusion, Agression

My 14 week old puppy started acting lethargic and trouble with motor skills wobbling and shaking back and forth I left home or maybe an hour or so could not find anything laying around that she could have gotten into we do drink fruity beers possibly that could contain xylitol could not find anything she could have gotten into right off hand and just wondering what kind of chemicals or avoidance or a drink she could have gotten into and how much would have needed to be ingested to cause all these symptoms he would be running and playing and then the opposite no vomit or diarrhea

Sept. 25, 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, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are having 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 any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 21, 2020

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Pitshiu

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Four Months

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Unknown severity

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4 found helpful

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

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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4 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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Alcohol Poisoning Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,800

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