Alcohol Poisoning in Cats and Dogs

Alcohol Poisoning in Cats and Dogs

If you are like most pet owners, you have at least thought about giving Spike some of your Coors Light or Mike’s Hard Lemonade, thinking that if you like it, he will too. This kind of thinking, while generous, is potentially harmful to your fluffy friend. Small amounts of alcohol are toxic to cats and dogs and may lead to various detrimental symptoms that should abate after several hours. But in larger doses, alcohol is potentially lethal to your pet and for safety should be avoided in any sort of dosage.

Absorption and Alcohol Content

The speed at which alcohol is absorbed into your pet’s system depends on several factors. Age and weight play a major role in determining how intoxicated your cat or dog will become. For instance, a 5-year-old Rottweiler who licks up half of a tablespoon of beer will probably not have as many effects as a 7-week-old Jack Russell terrier puppy that drinks half a cup of wine (not recommended). If your pet ingests alcohol on an empty stomach, the effects may have a quicker onset and become more noticeable than if your pet ingests alcohol on a full stomach. The type of alcohol consumed may also create differences in the onset, symptoms and outcomes of various situations. Since beer only has an alcohol content of 3 to 5 percent, your pet will have a stronger threshold of tolerance than if whiskey or vodka was consumed.

The Lethal Dose

For most cats and dogs, the lethal dose of ethanol (grain alcohol) is thought to be around 5 1/2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. This means that if your cat or dogs weighs 10 pounds, it will probably not be able to survive an ethanol dosage of more than 25 grams. To put it in perspective, a 12-ounce can of beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine or a 1.25-ounce shot of whiskey all contain enough ethanol to be potentially lethal to your beloved pet.

Symptoms and Treatment

Most pets will start showing symptoms of alcohol poisoning anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours after ingesting alcohol, and symptoms may include confusion, staggering, behavioral changes such as excitement or depression and urinating or defecating in the house (even if your pet is house trained). If you notice these or any other symptoms or think it is possible that your pet may have consumed alcohol, do not wait. Take your pet to your veterinarian immediately. If your animal recovers, it will usually take about 8 to 12 hours with veterinary supervision.