Blame it on Spuds McKenzie: Pairing dogs and beer is a combo just tailor-made for social media, and dog owners love posing their pups near their bottles and (ahem) growlers. But experts warn that going any farther than that is a disaster just waiting to happen. Let's be crystal clear: Dogs should never be given beer. Not as a treat. Not as a joke. Not even a little sip. Not if you love your fur baby. Not ever.
Dogs just have a "beer personality," it seems. They're friendly, open, and unpretentious — the very qualities we associate with our favorite malt beverage. Perhaps for that very reason, scads of pet owners are flooding Instagram with pictures of their dogs posing with craft beers. (The #brewdogs hashtag page alone has close to 20,000 posts.) Plus, more restaurants and bars are opening their doors to pooches (like these, in New York City), further deepening the bond between dogs and brews. Maybe that's why it might seem cute or harmless to let your pup have a taste once in a while.
Although there are no stats out there that quantify how many dog owners give their pets a taste of beer, the fact is that pets can and do consume alcohol, either through deliberate feeding or by accident. And that can be a dangerous, or even deadly, situation. "I've seen quite a few dogs come to us with alcohol poisoning," Carly Fox, DVM, tells Romper. Fox, a member of the emergency and critical care unit of the Animal Medical Center in New York, adds, "I would say that we see more animals that have ingested hard alcohol, but any drink with ethanol is dangerous."
Adding to the problem: Hops, a primary ingredient in beer, are toxic to dogs, according to the ASPCA. The plant can increase the pet's body temperature to dangerously high levels. That plus the alcohol makes beer a double hazard.
Just as with people, smaller dogs are more likely to be seriously affected by alcohol than larger breeds, explains Dr. Fox. Heavier bodies absorb the alcohol more slowly, and their blood alcohol level is lower. "I once treated a Pomeranian who had drunk a vodka-pineapple cocktail," says Dr. Fox. "It survived, but it was very ill."
The signs of alcohol poisoning in dogs are fairly easy to spot. "Basically, people know when their dogs have drunk liquor," says Dr. Fox. "They usually smell like alcohol. Symptoms typically start within an hour, and they can include poor coordination, vomiting, and extreme lethargy. Animals may become disoriented and vocalize a lot. In the worst cases, they may go into arrhythmia, and they can actually stop breathing."
Although a quick slurp of beer may not be disastrous for your pet, it's best not to take chances, advises Dr. Fox. If you suspect your dog has ingested even a little of your drink, "seek veterinary attention immediately," she says. "It's better to be safe than sorry." Don't try to induce vomiting at home, she adds; your pet might inhale some of its stomach contents into its lungs and make the situation even worse.
Prevention is as simple as making sure your pet doesn't have access to beer or other alcohol to begin with. Train your dog to stay away from the areas where you store beer (like the kitchen or garage) or stow the bottles well out of its reach. If you're hosting a party, don't leave your cups or cans where your dog might find them, and wipe up any spills right away. "And make sure your guests know not to feed your dog any drinks," says Dr. Fox. "People have to realize it's not funny."
IPA and stout lovers can still make drinking buddies out of their dogs without risking their health, however. In the last few years, "dog beers" have become a popular novelty item among pet owners. Brands like Bowser Beer and Good Boy Dog Beer are made with canine-friendly ingredients like meat, vegetables, mint, and basil, with absolutely no alcohol or hops. The drinks are meant to be poured over food to add flavor, or enjoyed on their own as a treat. But as with any new food or treat you introduce to your dog's digestive system, you definitely want to err on the side of caution and start with just a taste before you pour them a whole pint.
So save the brewskis (and the wine, bourbon, margaritas, etc. ...) for your own glass, and remember that like people, dogs don't need alcohol to have a good time.