As spring rolls around, so do days when partying is at a high point. Alcoholic beverages often are a staple at parties on days such as Saint Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo. In moderation, adults often find extra enjoyment with the addition of their favorite drinks, however when pets get involved, the results are no laughing matter.
In dogs and cats, even the smallest amount of alcohol ingested can cause toxicity, and can lead to a medical emergency. Alcohol poisoning in pets is, thankfully, a fairly uncommon occurrence in the United States, though it does happen, and through more varied means than you would think. There are incidents where a drink is spilled or is given intentionally to a pet, however sources of go beyond what you can put in your glass.
Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is the consumable byproduct of fermentation, and is contained in various quantities in any alcoholic beverage on the market. Beer typically contains between 3-5% alcohol, while wine contains between 9-12%. Other fine spirits such as whiskey or vodka can contain between 40-90% alcohol by volume.An easy way to identify how much alcohol content a beverage contains is by looking at the ‘proof’ on the bottle. The proof number is generally twice the percentage. A drink with 40% alcohol, for example, will be 80 proof.
Bread dough doesn’t have a designated proof, though it does contain ethanol while it rises, which makes it dangerous for animals to consume. Dogs are much more likely to consume bread dough than cats, making it a higher risk factor for dogs. While consumable alcohol and bread dough make up the most common threats, there are other household factors to consider when protecting your pets from alcohol poisoning. Ethanol is present as a solvent in some medications. Rubbing alcohol, which contains either isopropanol or methanol in various concentrations, can be deadly in even the smallest amounts. It is present in many household cleaners and solvents. The burning sensation from common brands of mouthwash is caused by denatured alcohol, a mix of ethyl alcohol with other forms of alcohol to discourage consumption.
Signs of alcohol consumption in pets can set in between 30 and 60 minutes after initial contact, though this time can be offset if the pet has a full stomach, and the level of intoxication can vary depending on the size and age of your pet, as well as how much alcohol is consumed. Symptoms may include vomiting, ataxia (a wobbly gait), hyperactivity, decreased reflexes, depression, and hypothermia. High doses may also result in seizures, cardiac arrhythmia, and death. If your pet does come in contact with any alcoholic or other potentially toxic substances, contact us immediately! The treatment for alcohol poisoning often includes activated charcoal, used to absorb excess alcohol in the stomach to prevent further digestion. Supportive care including I.V. fluids and hospitalization may be necessary. Certain blood tests can be indicative of the extent of damage done by the alcohol. During exciting and fun time of the year, be sure to keep your pets safe. If you’re hosting a party for friends, be sure to keep your pets safely put away in a crate or in a spare room of the house. Boarding is available at Park Avenue Animal Hospital if needed!