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Alcohol Poisoning in Pets

Happy New Year! We’ve opened the presents, baked the cookies, and left out the milk for Santa — and now it’s time for our thoughts to turn to something a little stronger. Now is the season for glittery party attire, noisemakers, and the clink of ice cubes against the side of the glass. You’ve worked hard over the last month!! You deserve a drink.

But as fun as getting together with friends in this season can be, should our best friends be included? Of course not! Alcohol is not good for our canine and feline friends and ingestion of alcohol can cause severe poisoning, and even death in some cases.

Now most people know this, and few of us would intentionally let our pets lap up alcohol, but unbeknownst to most owners, alcohol poisoning can be caused by things other than liquor. The other potential source for alcohol poisoning is unbaked bread dough, an unexpected but often very serious potential toxin in our homes.

But if you’re not making rum-soaked fruit cake, how can plain bread dough cause alcohol poisoning in your dog? When ingested, the warm, moist environment of your dog’s stomach acts like an oven, causing the dough to rise due to the fermentation process. Carbon dioxide and alcohol are both produced in quantities as the dough “rises” in the stomach. This can cause very serious (and potentially life-threatening) bloat and even stomach rupture as the dough expands, and it can also cause alcohol poisoning at the same time. Your dog may begin to show signs such as: 

  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal behavior

If the problem is serious, weakness, abdominal pain, and difficulty breathing may develop, and symptoms may progress from there.

What to do? What if your dog has finished off the contents of the glass on the table, or gotten a few of those yeast rolls you had rising near the wood stove? Contact a veterinarian right away to discuss the situation. Depending on the circumstances, induction of vomiting may be recommended. Your dog’s stomach may need to be pumped, and if he’s eaten a large quantity of dough, surgery to remove it is sometimes needed. In-hospital stabilization and treatment for alcohol poisoning includes IV fluids for hydration, careful monitoring of blood sugar and electrolytes, monitoring of the heart rate and blood pressure, and other supportive care such as anti-vomiting medication.

With prompt treatment at the vet clinic, your dog’s prognosis for recovery for alcohol poisoning may be good, but as with all things, prevention is the best medicine! Keep the risk to your furry friend in mind as we move through the holiday season. Save the drinks for the people, and no snacking on homemade bread or rolls until they are safely baked! Here’s to a happy and healthy 2018!

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