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Is Alcohol Safe for Pets?

6 days and counting! 🎄Chances are, you’ve been planning like crazy and your Christmas menu is set. Roast beef, prime rib, ham, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, shrimp cocktail, oven-roasted vegetables, baked pasta, chocolate confections, apple and pecan pies, the list goes on! And no Christmas feast is complete without a toasty alcoholic drink… Bailey’s, eggnog, hot toddy’s, brandy, and mulled cider are all wonderful ways to top off a Christmas evening. Curious cats and dogs may start sniffing around all of the wonderful smells and flavors that their humans are enjoying. But think twice before you treat your pet to a little lick of alcohol, or leave the punch bowl unattended. Read on for information about how alcohol is dangerous for your furry family members.

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Let’s start by being practical: a small sip of beer or mixed drink isn’t going to kill little Oscar, or even get him drunk. Problems arise if a pet has consumed a decent amount of alcohol — usually enough to cause GI upset. The good news is that most pets dislike the taste of alcohol, so they won’t be tempted to stick their nose in an abandoned glass. Creamy and sugary drinks like Bailey’s and eggnog may be more appealing though, and they come with a double whammy; drinks like these contain alcohol (which is toxic) and lots of sugar (which can cause GI upset and even pancreatitis).

If your pet finds alcohol to have a pleasant taste and gets into more than just a couple of sips, you may notice the same effects that alcohol would have on a human (ie. acting intoxicated). Too much alcohol will almost certainly send your pet to the emergency clinic. It’s not the type of alcohol that matters, it’s the quantity. The ethanol in your drink is what is harmful to your pets, and because pets are smaller than humans, it takes less alcohol for them to be in danger. Any type of alcoholic substance is dangerous to a cat or dog (as are other ethanol-containing substances like hand sanitizer and mouthwash), but the higher the ABV the more dangerous the drink is.

Signs of alcohol poisoning in a dog or cat include:
  • GI upset (especially vomiting)
  • nausea
  • poor balance/lack of coordination
  • increased thirst and urination
  • lethargy
  • disorientation
  • muscle tremors
  • paralysis
  • slow and shallow breathing
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness

If your dog or cat gets into a few sips of something alcoholic, you probably don’t need to worry. Monitor them closely over 24 hours for any signs of poisoning, and keep the phone number for your local emergency vet on-hand. If your pet may have drank a large amount of alcohol, you will need to seek immediate veterinary care. You can avoid health scares altogether by keeping food and drinks out of reach and blocking pet access to the trash.

Tune in tomorrow for a break-down of how popular decorations like tinsel and ribbon can be dangerous to pets. And cheers to a safe holiday season of good health and great company! 🍻

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