A dog posing with a glass of beer or wine is cute — and sure to get you tons of likes and comments on social media. But, can dogs drink beer? Can dogs drink wine? And can dogs drink any type of alcohol? Let’s take a look at dogs and beer, wine and other types of 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. 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 grapes are also toxic to dogs. That rules out anything made with or from grapes, from raisins to wine.
What about beer — can dogs drink 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 away 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.
So, can dogs drink beer — even if it’s in very small amounts? Unfortunately, beer or alcohol 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.
Another point to look at when answering, “Can dogs drink beer?” 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.
When answering, “Can dogs drink beer?” we’re through two reasons — potentially toxic ingredients and physical intolerance. But 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.
The short answers to the questions, “Can dogs drink beer?” “Can dogs drink wine?” “Can dogs drink alcohol?” is always a resounding no! Whether you’re having pals over for sporting events or sharing an evening 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 brewery, 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.
Thumbnail: Photography © RossHelen | iStock / Getty Images Plus.
This piece was originally published in 2015.