Can dogs sense alcohol? Here’s What to Do Next

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  • Written By: Ria Health Team
  • Updated: September 9, 2022
  • Dog owners know that man’s best friend is amazingly perceptive. Our dogs know when we are in a good mood, when we’re feeling down—and, of course, when we’re about to fill up the food bowl! But does that same perception extend to when we’re drunk?

    Your dog will never judge you for a night out. But Fido does understand that when you’re drunk, you don’t smell or act the same as when you’re sober. Still, you might be wondering just how much your dog can sense that you’ve been drinking.

    Here’s how your dog can tell when you’re drunk—and how getting too drunk, too often could get in the way of your pet parenting skills.

    They can smell it on you

    It’s no secret that dogs have a powerful sense of smell. According to an article by NOVA, “they possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in us. And the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours.”

    There are numerous reports about dogs being able to sniff out everything from minute traces of narcotics to the early stages of cancer, so assuming that they are unable to smell the alcohol on you is just plain crazy.

    Dogs can smell alcohol on your breath and body — they can even smell it if you were underwater. Marbach Road Animal Hospital puts it all in perspective by explaining, “dogs can pick up scents that are diluted to 1 or 2 parts per trillion; This allows them to smell things buried as far as 40 feet underground!”

    Basically, as soon as you walked in the door your dog knew something was different because the scent they usually associate with you is totally off and out of the ordinary.

    The History of Alcohol and Dogs

    Can dogs sense alcohol?

    As much as we hate to admit it, dogs have ingested – either accidentally or purposefully – alcohol. Animals and booze dont mix, but that doesnt mean that this situation hasnt happened before.

    For example, in a case study of the unintentional alcohol poisoning of a 4-year-old dachshund, owners accidentally fed their dog a bottle of alcoholic eggnog by mistake. This caused their dog to vomit, bump into walls, and become far more uncoordinated than usual.

    Had it not been for the signs the dogs gave off, these owners never would have known their doggo was suffering from alcohol poisoning. Always keep an eye on your dog if you suspect he or she has ingested any amount of alcohol – a close eye could save their lives.

    Can Dogs get Drunk? What happens when you Feed Alcohol to your Dog?

    “I host a lot of get-togethers in my home and my dog “works the room” begging for treats. Most of my guests know not to feed him, but I’m nervous he’ll lap up the alcoholic beverages left unattended without my knowledge. How much alcohol is too much? Are some alcohols more dangerous to dogs than others? Lastly, what do I do if my dog does drink alcohol?” -Party Animal

    Dear PA: Alcohol toxicity is not as common as you may think, because dogs are not innately drawn to alcoholic beverages. However, accidents can happen. Just as with humans, the safety issue is not with the type of alcohol your dog consumes but rather, how much was consumed. For example, hard liquor, wine, and craft beer contain higher alcohol levels than lite beer.

    If your dog does accidentally consume alcohol, it’s hard to know whether the amount consumed is at dangerous levels. The health and weight of the dog in relation to the type and volume are both variables to consider. For example, for toy breeds a smaller amount of alcohol would be considered is dangerous than for larger breeds.

    The amount of ethanol needed to cause intoxication varies depending on its concentration in the substance ingested. The published oral lethal dose in dogs is 5.5 to 7.9 g/kg of 100% ethanol. One milliliter of ethanol is equal to 0.789 g.