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Alcohol: Safely Celebrate New Year’s with Your Pet!

Alcohol toxicity in pets

I get drunk and kiss all the girls.

It’s time to ring in the New Year!

Goodbye 2015, hello 2016!  Time to kick up our heels and down a glass (or more) of bubbly! But, as we let our inhibitions go, we need to keep a close eye on our fuzzy friends, because New Year’s Eve parties expose them to a lot of hazards around the house.  That’s right, I’m talking about alcohol.

While the thought of a slightly drunk dog may fill us with a slight bit of amusement, booze of any kind is far more dangerous to our pets than it is to us.

Many people live by the theory that if something is okay for them, it has to be okay for their pet.  Wine, beer, wine coolers – all of these tasty treats are things we like to share with our family pets, much like we might share a sip of wine with an older child.

Pets and alcohol do not mix!

But animals do not metabolize ethanol as easily as we do.  Their size also accounts for the intensity of their reaction.  The impact of an adult beverage in a small dog is ten times the impact of an adult beverage in a small 100-pound human.  The signs we see after a dog has gotten into a bit of booze may be similar to what you see in a drunk human, but is often more severe (even at doses below a lethal dose):

  • Vomiting
  • Inhalation of the vomit, leading to aspiration pneumonia
  • Excess drooling
  • Stumbling (ataxia)
  • Blood pH imbalances
  • Large drops in body temperature
  • Respiratory failure
  • Low blood sugar, leading to seizures
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Coma
  • Death

Signs in a cat can occur with even smaller amounts. These signs typically start within 15-30 minutes of imbibing a drink and may reach the worst of the signs in 3-4 hours.

The lowest listed lethal dose for ethanol in a pet varies a great deal based on the proof of the alcohol, so prompt action is needed any time an animal has an opportunity to sneak a sip.  Even if death isn’t expected, vet care is needed to control some of the other signs we expect to see.

Alcohol is treated differently than most toxins

Because it absorbs into the system so quickly and is so easily inhaled, this is a situation where we do not want to induce vomiting.  Not even at home!  Activated charcoal does not bind to ethanol, so it won’t be much help, either.

Be prepared for a lengthy vet stay and supportive care for your pet:

  • IV fluids will help keep the blood pressure regulated and keep things flowing through the kidneys.
  • Repeated blood work to check for metabolic acidosis.
  • Medications to correct abnormalities.
  • EKG to keep a close eye on the heart.
  • Warmth and TLC from the vet staff!

The good news is that dogs with mild alcohol poisoning tend to recover fairly well after 2-3 days of treatment.  However, if the signs have progressed to the point where your pet is having difficulties bringing in enough oxygen, this is far more life-threatening.

As with any exposure, if you believe your pet has had an opportunity to get a little tipsy, contact a poison control center or vet clinic immediately. With alcohol the faster you react, the better.

Holiday poison prevention!

If you are having a party this year, a few simple modifications can help keep your pets safe and secure.  Remember that loud gatherings with lots of noise can be stressful for your pets, so letting them have free wander of your home may be frightening!

  • Have a gated no-alcohol zone.  Put your pets in this area, and strictly enforce it.
    • This is a great way to give your kitties a space to hide from all the activity, and a GREAT spot for all the introverts at the party to go hide when they need a break.
  • Pour in moderation.
    • This is a good tip for us, too.  Don’t dole out the drinks in amounts more than a few sips.  This will prevent your guests from leaving large amounts of unfinished alcohol all over your home!
  • Pick up used drinks as they are set down.
    • It’s no fun to be the one sober person at the party, cleaning up after everyone else.  But being that one responsible person may save not only your family pet, but reduce the opportunity for people finding uninvited chemical additions to their beverages.
  • Move all low tables out of the party area.
    • If nobody can find a low table to set their drink, they’ll put it up high.  This is ideal for floor-bound dogs, who aren’t able to reach up high.
  • Serve beverages in bottles and dole out rubber bottle stoppers to prevent spills!
  • Remember that accidents happen.  Don’t beat yourself up if they do. If your pet needs help and you’ve had a few too many, NEVER DRIVE TO THE CLINIC DRUNK!  Call a cab or a sober friend.  You can’t help your pet if you’re in the hospital too!

Have a safe and happy New Year!

2 thoughts on “Alcohol: Safely Celebrate New Year’s with Your Pet!

  • Hi Erin, great tips, and a good reminder for any gathering when alcohol is in the picture. I’ve heard the odd person mention their dog having a sip of their beer, and I just feel it’s a health risk waiting to happen. I didn’t know that in this situation you shouldn’t induce vomiting, you figure it’s a natural reaction to want your dog to throw up what he ingested. Your prevention tips are top notch, so let’s hope all the hosts and hostesses have read your very handy advice and everyone, pets included, will have a safe and happy New Year’s celebration.

    • You have a Happy New Year too, Hindy! There are a lot of things that have a high risk of inhalation when they’re vomited back up, and alcohol is sadly one of them. That, and you don’t tend to get too much back by the time you find them getting into the alcohol and get them to the vet. Prevention is always the best treatment! 🙂


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