What Happens to Dogs If They Drink Alcohol?

Dogs who drink even small amounts of alcohol will seem to be drunk; however, alcohol acts as a poison for dogs. Veterinarian Dr. Becky Lundgren on the Veterinary Information Network says pets who drink alcohol need to be diagnosed and treated quickly with activated charcoal to absorb the toxins and often IV therapy to maintain hydration.

The much smaller size and different physiology of dogs, Dr. Lundgren says, makes them more sensitive than humans to even small amounts of alcohol. A dog that has imbibed alcohol will show signs of intoxication like increased agitation and staggering, increased urination and in serious cases, slowed respiration and cardiac arrest.

If a dog is so inebriated it has trouble standing, the ASPCA suggests taking it to a veterinarian for diagnosis. A vet will do a blood test for alcohol level, then determine appropriate treatments. Smaller dogs and puppies are more susceptible than larger dogs to the more dangerous effects of alcohol. After treatment, dogs show signs of improvement within eight to 12 hours.

According to Dr. Justine Lee at PetMD, most cases of canine alcohol poisoning are not due to ingestion of beer or hard liquor, but secondary to a dog stealing a bit of unbaked yeast bread dough. In this case, the dog's system provides an ideal environment for the dough to rise, and the yeast ferments and produces raw alcohol.