By Gina Trippi
Not a lot of research has been done on the tipsy pet because most pets find the taste of alcohol unpleasant. Without an opposable thumb and access to the liquor cabinet, how does a pet get into alcohol anyway?
A significant number of pet owners indulge in giving a sip to calm the pet down. And during the chaos of a social gathering, pets can get into mischief, including alcohol. If your pet gets a snoot full, the effect is either a little buzz or, in extreme cases, a trip to a veterinary hospital.
Although your pet is not likely to take more than a sip of wine, certain mixed drinks contain ingredients presenting a sweet taste that might appeal to the pet palate. Sometimes these other ingredients—chocolate, raisins or macadamia nuts, for example—are dangerous in and of themselves. You should also take care to secure household products such as mouthwash or hand sanitizer, both of which contain ethanol. And be careful placing unfinished drinks in the garbage can.
The type of alcohol does not matter. It’s the amount that is of concern. Wine is not necessarily better than bourbon. “Pound for pound, it’s the ethanol that gets you,” says Dr. Christine Ritter of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Light beers are the least dangerous since their alcohol content is less, followed by craft beers, wine, hard liquors and, finally, grain alcohols.”
And watch for hidden sources of alcohol in foods, like certain flavorings, including vanilla and almond, and for spices that might contain essential oils like cinnamon. “That can be irritating to the gastrointestinal tract,” says Dr. Ritter. As the effect of alcohol is governed by weight in humans, so it is in pets. “A dog weighs substantially less and is not used to consuming alcohol,” says Dr. Ritter. “So the processes that break down alcohol are not regulated in a dog in the same way as in a person who consumes alcohol once in a while.”
Rover.com, a website dedicated to all things dog, further explains: “Dog livers aren’t built to process alcohol, and while some dogs may not show any overt signs of distress when imbibing the fruit of the vine, if too much is ingested, serious health problems could arise.” Grapes themselves are known to be extremely toxic to some dogs.
But what happens if your pet does imbibe? Doctors say that the pet could have a gastrointestinal upset and possibly become wobbly. Other symptoms can include increased thirst, increased urination, lethargy and disorientation. In severe cases, you may see muscle tremors, paralysis, extremely slow and shallow breathing, seizure and loss of consciousness.
In mild cases, doctors say pets generally recover with time and no other treatment. But if you think that your pet could have ingested a large amount of alcohol or is starting to show worrisome clinical signs, seek immediate veterinary care. In other words, pets should stay on the wagon!
Gina Trippi is the co-owner of Metro Wines, 169 Charlotte Street in Asheville. Committed to the community, Metro Wines offers big shop selection with small shop service. Gina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.575.9525.