Can Dogs Have Alcohol?

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Introduction

We know you'd never want to do anything to your hurt your doggo, but it's only natural to wonder about things your dogs can and cannot ingest. We're sure you've been in this situation, or one like it: you're enjoying a nice, cold beer on a hot afternoon when your doggo walks up, eyes wide and adorable, begging for a sip. You know how alcohol affects your body, so, is it safe to share a sip with your pup?

The answer: No. In fact, that's a resounding no. You should never, ever let your dog taste or try your alcohol, no matter what it is. There is no variety of alcohol that is safe for your dog to drink. Even if you've heard a story about how your buddy's buddy splits a beer with his dog every Friday, we certainly never recommend trying this with your dog. 

Dog's livers are not equipped to break down alcohol at all, and because of this, they're far more susceptible to alcohol poisoning than people are. If your doggo happens to ingest more than a few accidental sips of alcohol, it can mean real trouble for him or her. 

While you won't knowingly give your pup alcohol, what happens if they accidentally get into it? What if, by accident, you leave a beer out and your dog tips it over and takes a few swigs. You'll need to keep a close eye on your pooch for the next few hours. What signs should you look out for that something isn't right? We're glad you asked. Read below to get a better idea of what you need to keep an eye on, how alcohol affects your doggo's body, and how to avoid your dog accidentally getting into your alcohol. 

Signs Your Dog Has Been Hittin' the Sauce

Okay, the title is a joke, but there are definite signs that your dog might give you if they've accidentally gotten into the alcohol you've been trying to keep well-hidden. For starters, if your dog has a lap of alcohol, it's likely that your dog isn't going to experience any alcohol toxicity; however, you should always keep a close eye on your dog once they've accidentally ingested alcohol, no matter the amount. Even very tiny amounts can cause life-threatening toxicity in dogs (especially small ones). 

Check for signs of confusion, dizziness, weakness, or fatigue. That's right, just like people, dogs can get drunk and confused. It's far more dangerous for doggos, though, because their livers are in no way equipped to take on or break down alcohol. 

Keep a look out for things like slowed reflexes, staggering, and increased urination. If your dog is experiencing the effects of alcohol toxicity, you'll definitely notice things like a sharp drop or rise in their body temperature. This can severely damage their internal organs and cause their systems to shut down. 

Your dog might also experience seizures, a fever, extreme dehydration, and salivation. It's likely that your dog will have a decrease in their blood pressure, causing them to struggle to breath. They might pant, have respiratory failure, or go into shock. It's important you get your dog to the vet at the first sign of alcohol toxicity.  

Body Language

Here are a few body language cues your dog might be giving you to let you know that they have accidentally ingested too much alcohol. Look out for things like:
  • Panting
  • Weakness
  • Body freezing
  • Raspy panting
  • Nose licking
  • Nose wrinkled
  • Sleepiness

Other Signs

Look out for other signs, too. Check for things like:
  • Decrease in body temperature
  • Choking or respiratory failure
  • Falling, tripping, or general unawareness
  • Lethargy or difficulty moving
  • Seizures

The History of Alcohol and Dogs

As much as we hate to admit it, dogs have ingested - either accidentally or purposefully - alcohol. Animals and booze don't mix, but that doesn't mean that this situation hasn't happened before. 

For example, in a case study of the unintentional alcohol poisoning of a 4-year-old dachshund,  owners accidentally fed their dog a bottle of alcoholic eggnog by mistake. This caused their dog to vomit, bump into walls, and become far more uncoordinated than usual. 

Had it not been for the signs the dogs gave off, these owners never would have known their doggo was suffering from alcohol poisoning. Always keep an eye on your dog if you suspect he or she has ingested any amount of alcohol - a close eye could save their lives.

The Science Behind Breaking Down Alcohol: Why Dog's Cant Do It

As we said before, dogs do not have the digestive systems or the livers needed to break down alcohol in a safe way. Because of this, alcohol is 100 percent on the do-not-give-your-dog list. Dogs will experience alcohol poisoning much quicker than humans and with far less ingested.

That being said, just a few sips of alcohol can poison your dog. You'll need to make sure you take note of the type of alcohol your dog gets into as well as the alcohol percentage of the drink they have ingested. 

The type of alcohol matters to some degree, but not to an immense one. Though some alcohol will require a lot less doggo-sipping to put them in danger (because of the percentage), any alcohol that your dog ingests could put him or her at risk for alcohol poisoning or toxicity.

Training Your Dog to Avoid Alcohol

Obviously, your dog doesn't have the same drive for alcohol that people do - they don't understand what it is, just that it smells different and that you drink it, so it must be tasty. So, when we say that you should curb your dog's desire or train them to stay away from alcohol, we obviously don't mean give them the D.A.R.E. talk and the "just say no" discussion. Instead, we recommend training your dog to abide by the most basic of obedience commands. This won't just benefit the two of your in this situation but in almost every situation. 

If your dog has a grasp of "no" and "leave it" and other commands like that, you'll be a lot less worried about spilling a beer or dropping a glass of alcohol on the floor. If you do, and your dog rushes toward it, all you have to do is throw a "no" their way and they'll stop in their tracks, giving you ample time to clean up the mess before they gobble it all up.

Additionally, we recommend training yourself to keep your alcohol in a spot that's not just too far for them to reach, but too high for them to get to. While most alcohol is secured with a tight-fitting lid or a cap, it's typically in a glass bottle or a can, an easy device for your to dog to knock over or worse, sink their teeth into. We also recommend crate training your pooch for this reason. 

If you're out and about all day and your dog is left to mischief about the entire house, it's possible that they could get their teeth into some of your alcohol. Sure, this is unfortunate for you, but this is incredibly dangerous for your dog and could even kill them. Having designated crate time while you're gone will give you the peace of mind you want, and the safety your dog needs.

How to React if Your Dog Ingests Too Much Alcohol:

  • Take your dog to the vet immediately.
  • If instructed by the dog-tor, induce vomiting in your dog.
  • Take note of the alcohol content of the alcohol your pet got into as well as the amount, as this will be important information for your vet.
  • Hide and secure your alcohol better.
  • After your doggo has been treated, let them sleep off the effects in a safe, controlled environment.