Ethanol Poisoning in Dogs

3 min read


Ethanol Toxicosis in Dogs

Ethanol poisoning (toxicosis) occurs from exposure to the chemical ethanol, either orally or through the skin, and results most commonly in a depression of the central nervous system -- expressed in the animal as drowsiness, lack of coordination or unconsciousness. Other effects may include damage to body cells, and symptoms such as incontinence, slowed heart rate, and even heart attack.

Ethanol poisoning is seen frequently in dogs, and occurs due to exposure to dyes, inks, disinfectants, mouthwashes, paints, perfumes, pharmaceuticals, gasoline, and certain beverages.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of ethanol poisoning vary depending on the amount ingested, and whether the dog's stomach is full or empty. The main symptom is a depressed central nervous system, which may develop 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion on an empty stomach, and up to two hours later when ingested on a full stomach.

Other symptoms include urinating or defecating involuntarily. Higher doses of ethanol ingestion can lead to behavioral changes ranging from depression to excitement, decreased body temperature (hypothermia), slow reflexes, and flatulence if bread dough is the source of ethanol (see causes, below). Signs of advanced ethanol poisoning include depression, slowed breathing and heart rate, an increase in total body acid (metabolic acidosis), and heart attack. If left untreated, this can result in the dog's death.

Symptoms of ethanol poisoning may also be similar to early stages of antifreeze (ethylene glycol) poisoning.


Ethanol poisoning can occur from ingesting a variety of products. Fermented products such as bread dough and rotten apples, which dogs may find in the garbage, may be one case. Other accidental instances may occur from spilled beverages, commercial products, or medications containing alcohol. Exposure of alcohol-containing products through the skin is also possible.

Some cases of intentional ethanol poisoning have been reported, as dogs may readily consume alcoholic beverages if offered by an owner unaware of the consequences.


Ethanol poisoning can be diagnosed via blood tests measuring blood-ethanol concentration. A urine test for low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) may also point to ethanol poisoning, as well as a pH test measuring for heightened acid levels in the body.

Related Posts

Can Cats and Dogs Drink Beer or Alcohol?

Megan Sullivan
Oct 03, 2019

Treating and Preventing Antifreeze Poisoning in Pets

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Mar 16, 2017

Top Ten Fourth of July Pet Safety Tips

Vladimir Negron
Jul 03, 2017