I have written many pieces for Dogster revolving around the eternal question, “What can dogs eat?” In many of these, I find myself equivocating or dancing around things that, while not technically toxic or poisonous, really have no place in a dog’s daily dietary intake. The month of February offers a number of celebratory occasions — Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1), Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), National Drink Wine Day (Feb. 18), and National Margarita Day (Feb. 22) — that typically see a great deal of alcohol consumed by dog owners. There is no wiggle room when it comes to questions such as, “Can dogs drink beer?” or “Can dogs drink wine?” Without condition, qualification, or hesitation, I can say that we should never allow our dogs to taste, much less to openly consume alcoholic beverages of any kind.
Whatever you are celebrating in February, or any other month, really, keep all bottles, cans, snifters, tumblers, growlers, and flutes out of your dog’s reach at all times. Here are three reasons why your dog should not drink alcohol.
Well before they are processed or fermented for use in beer, wine, or any mixed drink, the main ingredients of alcoholic beverages are among the top plants that are toxic or poisonous to dogs. Since we’re celebrating National Drink Wine Day soon (Feb. 18), we’ll start with grapes. There’s no question that seeded or seedless, the grape is nature’s candy; grapes are a sweet, juicy, delicious fruit. While the reason why is still a mystery to veterinary science, there is no question that to many dogs grapes are also toxic. That rules out anything made with or from grapes, from raisins to wine.
What about beer? Following water, grain, and yeast, hops constitute a primary ingredient in the production of beer. Like grapes in wine, it is not known precisely why hops are toxic to dogs. Like grapes, though, there is no doubt that consumption of hops causes violent physical reactions in many canines. We’re talking not only about immediate physical symptoms such as vomiting, wild fluctuations in body temperature, and labored breathing, but also potential kidney damage. People who enjoy brewing their own beer at home should be especially careful to store brewing hops securely from curious dogs.
Dogs can and will eat or drink anything out of simple hunger, curiosity, or boredom. There are YouTube videos beyond count proving that people find it entertaining to watch a dog consume “human” foods and drinks. What these don’t take into account is that dog physiology is, in any number of ways, very different to that of their human owners. Dogs’ intolerance of alcohol in part derives from their size. It takes far less alcohol to intoxicate and poison an adult dog than it does for a fully grown adult human.
It doesn’t even have to be poured in a glass or a bowl for alcoholic or ethanol-based food or drink to pose a real threat to your dog’s health. Dogs have displayed symptoms of alcohol poisoning and ethanol toxicity from things as simple as a rum cake, and from having absorbed wine or other alcohol through their skin when it’s been spilled on a carpet or couch. Eating uncooked dough containing yeast is also sufficient to provoke symptoms of poisoning in dogs.
Humans build up tolerance to beer and wine through responsible consumption over time. A dog’s kidneys were not meant to filter or process the alcohol content of beer, wine, or indeed drinks of any alcoholic nature. And because dogs tend, by and large, to be much smaller than their human owners, even a small amount of wine or beer is sufficient to cause noticeable physical alterations in the typical dog.
We’re through two reasons — potentially toxic ingredients and physical intolerance — and we’re only just now reaching the major reason why dogs shouldn’t ever drink or lap up alcoholic beverages, including wine and beer. That reason is that, in any configuration, whether it’s beer, wine, a cocktail, or your most trusted brand of nighttime cough syrup, dogs are at risk of alcohol poisoning, also called ethanol toxicosis.
Alcoholic beverages of every stamp cause the same kinds of reactions in dogs that they provoke in humans, only — due to dogs smaller size and inability to process its intoxicating properties — much faster and with more dangerous results. The higher the alcohol content, the worse it is for your dog. As in humans, one of the first things affected by alcohol consumption is the nervous system. Confusion, disorientation, and weakened motor functions are all primary symptoms of ethanol toxicity in dogs.
Given enough alcohol, people can pass out. For dogs, the consequences can be more severe with much less. We’re talking about digestive upset, including vomiting, diarrhea, and trouble urinating on the lighter end of things. In large enough quantities, which needn’t be large at all, dogs can suffer potential comas, kidney failure, and heart failure on the extreme end. Severe indications of alcohol poisoning in dogs can manifest within as little as an hour after consumption.
Whether you’re having pals over for winter sporting events — professional football, college basketball, or a spring-training baseball game — or sharing an evening in with a special someone, make sure all alcoholic beverages and foodstuffs containing alcohol are kept well out of the reach of your dogs. If it’s nice out and you’re headed to the local beer garden, or you’re planning a winery tour, and the place is dog-friendly, then, by all means, take your dog along for the company.
No matter where you are, enjoy your favorite beverages responsibly, but don’t let your dog’s curiosity or pleading eyes influence your choices. The sheer number of potential disasters that alcohol presents to our dogs should be reason enough to properly dispose of empty containers when your dogs and puppies are nearby.
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