Living in a city like Richmond, with a new craft brewery on every corner, many question if it’s okay to share a little “Brewski” with their dog. You’ve probably seen people do it too… pour a little beer in their dog’s bowl or pour a little on the pavement and let their dog lap it up. I’ve even read articles online that say a little bit of beer is okay for dogs. Dogs do like the smell of beer. And they always want some of your beer! But the truth is, no, we should never give a dog beer or alcohol of any kind. Never. Ever. It can be fatal. And we have plenty of information to share with you to back that up…
Are Hops Poisonous to Dogs?
All beer contains hops. Did you know that hop is poisonous and even deadly to dogs? You may be thinking, “What about all those dogs whose owners have given them beer and they’re still alive?” The dog’s breed, the size of the dog, and the amount of hops consumed all play a role in determining whether it will actually kill a dog. And if the dog doesn’t die, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the dog may have experienced some kind of physiological damage, whether it’s obvious to us or not?
Some dog breeds are more susceptible to hop poisoning than others. Namely, Greyhounds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Pointers, Dobermans, Border Collies, English Springer Spaniels, and northern breeds like Akitas, Chow Chow, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Samoyed and others. These breeds are predisposed to a condition called “malignant hyperthermia”.
Malignant hyperthermia is how the dog’s body reacts to hop poisoning. When malignant hyperthermia occurs, the dog’s temperature can quickly rise 6 – 10 degrees above normal. When their temperature is that high, permanent brain damage and death can result. Before death, the dog may suffer from excessive panting, abdominal pain, muscle spasms and seizures. (As I am writing this, I am getting more and more angry to think that some people would purposely give their dog beer and risk causing this type of suffering.)
The Canine Body’s response to Alcohol
It’s unfair that my 6’2”, 200 pound husband can drink several beers and function normally, whereas I need to stop after 2 beers if I intend to have any semblance of intellect about myself the rest of the day. Imagine how beer would affect a much smaller being like our dogs. The toxicity of alcohol is dependent on body weight. Dogs obviously weigh a lot less than we do, so it makes sense that just a little alcohol could potentially be very dangerous for them, especially since it affects them way more intensely than it does us.
A dog’s first response to alcohol impacts the central nervous system… just like it does in us. We/they slow down. We/they may become drowsy. Coordination is affected. Given more alcohol, our nervous system becomes depressed to the point of slowing the heart rate and breathing. Body temperature drops. Blood Chemistry is altered. Just how much can our dog’s small body endure? Do we really want to know?
But, you may be thinking, a dog’s metabolism is a lot faster than ours and will quickly metabolize and flush away the alcohol, right? Wrong. Let me explain… Our liver is the reining star of our metabolic processes. I have learned that about 90 – 98% of alcohol that we drink is processed by our liver. Our liver contains enzymes that rapidly break down or “metabolize” alcohol. When alcohol is metabolized by our liver, it is either used (as energy), absorbed, or flushed out. A dog’s liver is simply not designed like ours. It is not able to process alcohol. In fact, their liver can be quickly damaged by alcohol. Liver damage is permanent and can be fatal. We were right to think that a dog’s body would metabolize the alcohol more quickly, but it isn’t flushed away. When alcohol is metabolized by a dog, it is absorbed as pure ethanol. Ethanol toxicity occurs even more rapidly because of the dog’s rate of metabolization.
As we all know, it’s very important we keep our dogs hydrated. Basically every important bodily function, from digestion, the ability to absorb nutrients, to regulating body temperature requires water. Without an adequate supply, your dog can become ill quickly and dehydrate. When we drink a few beers, we are constantly having to run to the bathroom, right? The reason this happens is because beer is a diuretic. A diuretic works by drawing the water out of your body. The same thing happens when a dog drinks beer… water is rapidly pulled from the body. Vital electrolytes are depleted. Your dog is dehydrated. Dehydration impairs kidney functioning. Impaired kidney functioning in a dog can be fatal. Sure, it doesn’t happen that quickly, but think of how quickly you have to run to the bathroom after that first beer. Remember, first of all, a dog’s little body processes things much faster than ours. Secondly, even if they do not die immediately because of their impaired kidney functioning, the toxin can still harm their kidneys and reduce the quality of life over time.
Another reason beer – and alcohol in general – is so dangerous to dogs is because it can cause a sudden and dramatic drop in blood sugar. After ingesting alcohol, a dog may need medically administered glucose to avoid loss of consciousness, seizures or even irreparable brain damage. And if your dog is diabetic, there is little hope of recovery.
Imagine this nightmare: Your dog has just been exposed to alcohol. Within minutes, he begins to lose coordination and may stumble or stagger. He becomes disorientated. His breathing and heart rate slows. He becomes agitated. He may involuntarily urinate, defecate, or throw up. He may have muscle tremors. Then maybe seizures and then lapse into a coma. He may go into cardiac arrest. Yes, any of these things can happen and it is tragic. And guess what, we are responsible.
How can we make sure that doesn’t happen?
If you and your dog are around alcohol, keep a very close watch on them. Make sure they stay by your side at all times. Beware of open containers on the counters. Dogs think nothing of sticking their little snout in a glass, especially with the allure of delicious beer.
Alcohol, or ethanol, hides itself in many other seemingly innocent products that our little furry scavengers could ingest. Common household products like mouthwash, perfumes, deodorants, and hand sanitizer contain ethanol. As a solvent, it is often found in paints, markers, and tinctures. Many food type products contain ethanol. Sauces and syrups may contain distilled spirits. Brandied fruits, fruit cake, liquor filled chocolates… even food colorings.
There are some warnings that suggest that the alcohol used in some dog dental care sprays can be as harmful over time as the dog ingests a few sprays daily. There are also many counter arguments to this accusation. The best advice is to ask your vet for their recommendation for dental sprays.
The Bright side!
Your furry friend doesn’t have to stay home while you’re out visiting local breweries! There are so many breweries in our area that are dog friendly: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Strangeways, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, Ardent Craft ales, Tripple Crossing Brewery, Isley Brewing, Center of the Universe Brewing…and more! Take your pup, kick back, and enjoy! Just keep a close eye on your little furry friend.
And oh…If you’re one of our awesome Holiday Barn Pet Resorts customers, you have probably noticed that we sometimes serve “Doggie Beer” to our canine guests on special occasions (with your approval, of course!)… like our Tailgating parties during football season, or our Cinco De Mayo party. We are often asked, “What is Doggie Beer? Is it really beer?” No, it’s not really beer (but don’t tell our guests!!). It’s more of a meat broth. We buy “Bowser Beer”. Bowser Beer is made in the USA with all human-grade, US-sourced ingredients and is inspected and tested by the FDA. There is no salt, alcohol or carbonation in their formula, but dogs love it! By the way, Bower Beer also sells dog pretzels and cigars for the more “refined” pooches!