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When Pets Drink: Alcohol Toxicity


wine glassBy: Dr. Lindsay Vaughn, DVM, Diplomate, ACVECC

A real case: *names have been changed

“Maizy*” came to the VESCONE emergency department today after accidentally drinking a glass of wine. After briefly leaving the room,  Maizy’s owners returned and found an empty wine glass and their beloved Cockapoo displaying abnormal behavior. She was very sedated and appeared unable to walk.

Her owners immediately brought her into VESCONE for evaluation. On presentation, Maizy was neurologically inappropriate and depressed. She required hospitalization and supportive care treat her alcohol toxicity. After spending 24 hours in the hospital, Maizy is back to her normal energetic self and is ready to go home.

What is alcohol toxicity?

Alcohol toxicity can be associated with accidental ingestion of alcoholic beverages, alcohol-containing household products such as windshield wiper fluid, or uncooked bread dough. 

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms associated with alcohol ingestion can range from mild depression and disorientation to severe central nervous system depression.  At higher doses, animals can develop respiratory depression, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, and abnormal heart rhythms.   

How is it treated?

Depending on the amount of alcohol ingested and the severity of the symptoms, the pet may require intestinal decontamination and supportive care. If the alcohol was recently ingested, vomiting can be induced. They may also require a medication (activated charcoal) to bind the toxins within the intestinal tract to prevent absorption.  They also typically will receive intravenous fluid therapy supplemented with vitamins  which aids in metabolism of the alcohol. With severe alcohol toxicosis, more aggressive therapy may be warranted.  Most animals are expected to recover within 12-24 hours with treatment.

How do I prevent this?

To avoid alcohol toxicity in your pets, keep all alcohol containing substances out of their reach. If you think your pet is suffering from alcohol toxicity or may have potentially ingested alcohol, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline.

If you or someone you know believes that their animal is in need of immediate medical attention, please call VESCONE at 781.684.8387. We are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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