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Dogs are opportunistic eaters who will not hesitate to taste anything that looks like food. That includes alcoholic products.
But while alcohol is a common intoxicant in humans, many dog owners aren’t aware of its potential consequences on their canine friends. So, if you suddenly discover that your adorable pooch has helped himself to a significant amount of wine that you left lying on the dining table, it’s natural to wonder what will become of him.
Will the dog stagger like you normally do when you’ve had one too many? Will he throw up on your newly-installed carpet? Or will the animal just lie there and wait for the effects to wear off?
These are some of the questions likely to boggle your mind, and the very ones that this post shall attempt to address.
Read on as we uncover everything that could happen if your dog is exposed to alcohol.
Can Dogs Get Drunk?
The direct answer is yes, dogs can certainly get drunk with alcohol. Perhaps your next question is – how does intoxication occur in dogs?
All mammals, including dogs, have a complex cell-regulatory system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system is involved in numerous biological and physiological processes. Some of its key roles include pain regulation, maintaining the endocrine balance, regulating circadian rhythms, food metabolism, and supporting the immune system.
To perform these essential functions, the endocannabinoid system relies on an extensive network of receptors called the endocannabinoid receptors. The system also contains a number of neurotransmitters, which mainly exist as endocannabinoids like anandamide and hormones like dopamine.
There are two main types of endocannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are expressed near the brain and central nervous system (CNS) whereas CB2 receptors are widespread in the body’s peripheral organs, such as the gut and extremities.
Now, most intoxicants bind to CB1 receptors. The result of these bindings can be positive or negative, usually depending on the doses consumed. Studies have shown that alcohol may inhibit the natural signaling of CB1 receptors in a manner that reduces the brain’s ability to control basic life-support functions. These include muscle coordination, breathing, temperature control, and heart rate.
What Are The Symptoms Of Alcohol Intoxication In Dogs?
The symptoms of alcohol intoxication in dogs fall into four broad categories as described below;
1. Central Nervous System Impairment
CNS impairment is arguably the biggest issue with alcohol in dogs. And as we’ve just pointed out, it has much to do with the reduced signaling of CB1 receptors.
Symptoms of an impaired central nervous system include;
• Poor coordination, as is evidenced by staggering
2. Gastrointestinal Distress
Alcohol can quickly irritate your dog’s stomach lining. This is especially true for first-time consumers.
Common symptoms to expect include;
• Vomiting or retching
• Signs of abdominal pain and discomfort
• Stomach upset
• Hypersalivation or excessive drooling
3. Metabolic Acidosis
Metabolic acidosis is a life-threatening condition triggered by excess alcohol in the blood. It’s mainly characterized by an uncontrollable rise in acidity levels. The problem affects a significant number of human alcohol users, which makes it an even bigger risk for dogs.
The tell-tale signs of metabolic acidosis include;
• Labored breathing, usually evidenced by excessive panting
• Low heart rate
• Hypotension or low blood pressure
• Hypothermia or low body temperature
• Heart attacks
Hypoglycemia simply refers to dangerously low blood sugar levels. Early warning symptoms include lethargy and weakness. If unmitigated, the condition can degenerate into seizures.
Can Alcohol Kill Dogs?
Alcohol can certainly kill dogs. Death may not occur instantaneously.
But if the symptoms of alcohol poisoning in dogs go untreated, they can lead to organ failure and, ultimately, death.
How Much Alcohol Is Dangerous For Dogs?
Humans are intelligent enough to know when they’ve had one too many. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about our canine friends. A dog will not know when to stop taking alcohol. That’s especially true for alcoholic products like wine, which may contain flavors that dogs naturally love.
It’s even worse considering the relatively small amount of alcohol required to cause toxicity in dogs. According to experts, the oral lethal alcohol dose in dogs is 5.5 – 7.9g/kg of 100% ethanol. Note that this amount remains constant regardless of the alcoholic product your dog has been exposed to.
What Are Common Alcohol-containing Products?
Beer and wine aren’t the only potential alcoholic drinks that your dog might consume. There are tons of other products containing decent amounts of alcohol, neither of which is safe for dogs.
• Fermenting bread dough
• Pharmaceutical products like rubbing alcohols and syrups
• Dental products like mouthwash
• Cosmetic products like perfumes and colognes
• Inks and dyes
• Cleaning chemicals
Alcohol is one of the most toxic compounds to dogs. A seemingly small amount can easily trigger life-threatening symptoms.
Therefore, it’s imperative that you keep alcoholic products out of your dog’s reach. Never leave alcoholic beverages unattended, especially if having guests over. Besides, clean up all spills to prevent your pooch from licking them behind your back.
And needless to mention, ensure your dog is well-fed. A satiated dog is less likely to go scavenging for food.
If you suspect your dog has consumed alcoholic products behind your back, take him for a veterinary checkup immediately.