Alcohol Poisoning

Summertime is here, and most of us like to indulge in a drink or two while relaxing in the sun. I’m sure there have been times we offered a little sip of something to our furry friend to see what he or she might do. Or we accidentally leave our beverage out, where they can get access to it. Unfortunately, a sip is a trip to the emergency room.

Ethanol (ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol) is very toxic to animals and is found in alcoholic drinks. When considering alcohol poisoning, we have to look at the weight of the pet and how much was consumed. It can take 15-30 minutes for the alcohol to affect an animal if they consumed it on an empty stomach and 1-2 hours on a full one. Many symptoms can occur including staggering, excitement, or decreased reflexes. You may also notice behavioural issues starting, such as increased urination. As the problems worsen, your pet can become very depressed, their respiratory rate could decrease and eventually, lead to cardiac arrest. Puppies and kittens are at the highest risk for this, due to their small size.

Alcohol poisoning is diagnosed by a blood test done by your veterinarian, which is a blood ethanol concentration test, but other blood parameters can also determine it. Emergency treatment is mandatory for the affected pets. If they are having respiratory problems, ventilation or support of some kind may be needed. We also give activated charcoal after ingestion to help soak up the poison. IV fluids is another form of treatment given to improve fluid and electrolyte level. For the severe cases of cardiac arrest, CPR is given. If your pet is going to recover from the alcohol poisoning, you will see it 8-12 hours after receiving treatment. If you suspect your pet has ingested any alcohol, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

Please have a safe and happy summer!

Written by Holly Murphy, Client Care Specialist

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