Beer is an age-old drink beloved by many. It used to be a staple part of the human diet, and because dogs have evolved alongside us for 11,000 years, surely it’s a dog-safe drink? Let’s examine whether dogs can drink beer and other types of alcohol.
Is Beer Safe For Dogs To Drink?
The simple answer is no. Beer is not safe for dogs to drink, even in small amounts. There are risks associated with alcohol poisoning, drunkenness, and hops poisoning. It’s never OK to give a dog beer, no matter how funny and harmless people think it might be.
Beer is a problem for dogs because it’s very toxic but has a sweet taste and a smell they like. They may also try to drink it because they want to get involved in family life and try to fit into the pack.
What Is Beer?
Beer is the third most popular drink worldwide lagging only behind water and tea! It’s been made for thousands of years by brewing starch from cereal grain.
Archaeologists have found evidence of beer fermentation dating back 13,000 years in Haifa, Israel. Workers laboring to build the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt were given four to five liters of beer each day. Beer spread throughout Europe with the Germanic and Celtic tribes, and early American settlers took beer-making knowledge with them. It’s never gone out of fashion, even during prohibition times!
Health Benefits Of Beer
There are no health benefits for dogs, but it’s possible to buy what’s called “dog beer”.
This drink contains malt barley and pork, chicken, veggies, or peanuts liquid. Brewers claim their drinks contain nutrients and some retailers suggest it can even make their bottoms smell better to other dogs. Now we’ve heard everything!
Commercial dog beers are dog-safe, but they’re an occasional treat, not a regular part of a healthy diet. Never replace clean, fresh water with dog beer, no matter how much they like it.
What About Alcohol-Free Beer?
Alcohol-free beer for dogs is a matter of contention between dog owners online. It doesn’t contain alcohol which is the main risk with beer. Still, it may contain other toxic ingredients like hops, xylitol, or fruit extracts. (more on those risks next), so no, alcohol-free beer isn’t suitable for dogs.
Risk Of Dogs Drinking Beer
Beer is toxic for dogs in several different ways. The main risk is alcohol poisoning, but hops and sweeteners are also risky. Let’s look at those in a bit more detail:
Alcohol is Toxic
Ethanol is the ingredient in beer that’s toxic for dogs. The symptoms of ethanol poisoning include:
- High or low body temperature
- Shaking and trembling
- Hypoglycemia – low blood sugar
- Low blood pressure
Alcohol poisoning can be fatal in cases where the dog has consumed a lot of alcohol compared to its size. This is because it overwhelms the organs and causes multi-organ failure.
Drunkenness is alcohol poisoning, but the feeling of being drunk is unsettling for dogs, if not frightening. Humans can deal with being drunk because they expect it and know what’s happening to them. On the other hand, dogs do not understand why they can’t walk properly and feel nauseous.
In many countries giving alcohol to dogs is considered animal abuse which can lead to fines and even prison sentences.
Modern beer comes from hops. Hops (Humulus lupulus) are tall climbing plants with cone-like flowers. These flowers stabilize beer and add bitterness to its taste. Hops are toxic to dogs because they cause body temperature increases, racing heart rates, and gastric upsets.
Symptoms of hops poisoning can happen within 30 minutes or take up to 12 hours. A vet can reduce their temperature, so it’s treatable if found early on.
Home brew beer uses hops in pellet form, which is also toxic to dogs. Keep hops in a sealed dog-proof container if you’re a home brewer.
Parties and Owner Intoxication
Dogs can beg and steal alcohol at parties, or even when you’ve had a few yourself during a quiet evening, and this can mean you don’t notice your pet is unwell.
If you’re drinking, keep your glass from your dog at all times. Put it somewhere high and mop up any spillages right away. Guests should be made aware at parties, or dogs should be shut safely away from areas with alcohol.
It might sound like an overreaction, but it’s better to be safe than realize your dog has alcohol poisoning too late to save them. If you’re tipsy yourself, driving your dog to a vet clinic won’t be safe.
Can Dogs Drink Wine?
No, wine contains alcohol and it’s toxic for all the reasons beer is.
Dogs may be more attracted to wine, cider, and cocktails because of their fruity scents. Some wines contain the artificial sweetener Xylitol which is toxic to dogs even in small amounts. Xylitol can cause collapse and death within a few hours, so never give a dog red, white, rose, or fizzy wine.
What About Spirits?
No, spirits contain more ethanol than beer and wine, so they’re even riskier. Spirits, including vodka, whiskey, gin or any cocktail containing them, are a big no for dogs.
It’s worth pointing out that drinks are not the only form of alcohol or ethanol. Your dog can also be poisoned if it ingests alcohol-infused food, antifreeze, mouthwash, essential oils, household cleaning products, hand sanitizer or raw bread dough.
My Dog Drank Alcohol, What Do I Do?
If your dog has consumed alcohol you need to call a veterinarian for advice on what to do next, even if they aren’t exhibiting any symptoms.
The risks are higher with small dogs because ethanol’s toxicity varies depending on body weight, but large breeds are at risk too.
The lethal dose of ethanol for dogs is 5.5 to 7.9 g/kg per 100% ethanol. Still, it’s virtually impossible to calculate this on your pet dog, so professional advice is needed immediately.
If you can tell the vet what type of alcohol your dog has drunk, how much when it occurred and what the current symptoms are it will help enormously. Take the bottle or packaging with you to the vet clinic.
What About Cats, Can Cats Drink Beer?
No, cats can’t drink beer, wine or spirits either. It’s just as toxic for cats and because they’re smaller it can cause more damage.
What Food and Drink Are Toxic for Dogs?
Beer and hops are toxic to dogs along with all other forms of alcohol, but there are other foods that are similarly toxic as well.
Grapes – tiny sweet grapes are so toxic for dogs they can be fatal. Dogs can’t process the compounds in grapes, and it can lead to kidney failure. Grapes are found in juices, Jell-o, and cold desserts, which are dried out to make raisins. All forms are toxic.
Macadamia nuts – these tasty nuts cause weak back legs, vomiting and organ failure in dogs. Macadamia nuts are used in sweet confectionaries, including cakes and biscuits, which are popular items for dogs to steal (or children to share with their pup).
Black walnuts contain indigestible compounds and grow a type of toxic mold that cause organ failure in dogs.
Xylitol – an artificial sweetener that’s prevalent in confectionary, including cakes and Jell-O. Xylitol can cause hypoglycemia in dogs and lead to death. As we’ve already seen, it can pop up in alcoholic cocktails and sweet liquor drinks.
Onions and Garlic – plus leeks, shallots, and flowers, including the allium Purple Sensation, are also toxic. The compounds bind to a dog’s red blood cells and cause anemia.
Chocolate – dogs like chocolate, but it can kill them. Caffeine and theobromine are stimulants their organs can’t process, and it often contains Xylitol. A double whammy of dog toxins in a sweet treat.
Beer Is Toxic For Dogs
So we’ve learned that it’s never OK to give a dog beer or any other form of alcohol. It can cause alcohol poisoning, hop toxicity and cause distressing drunk symptoms that dogs don’t understand.
If you want to treat your dog to something, choose a dog-safe treat like bell peppers, carrots, strawberries or an occasional puppaccino, but never a beer.
- Can Dogs Safely Eat Bell Peppers? What You Should Know
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- ASPCA, Available here: https://www.aspca.org/news/dogs-beer-getting-bottom-hops-toxicity
- NCBI, Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1686341
- PetMD, Available here: https://www.petmd.com/dog/poisoning/alcohol-poisoning-in-dog