Stay Safe on St. Patrick’s Day: Keep Alcohol Away from Animals!

By Joan Eve Quinn
HEALS Program Director

Four-leaf clovers, luck, and leprechauns lurk on the horizon as we march towards St. Patrick’s Day. A bright kelly-green break from the winter doldrums, parades, and parties are heading our way. For many, the cheerful celebrations historically include the alcoholic beverage of your choice. Party in style and with good sense!

While you’re looking for that pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow, be sure to keep your pets away from all alcoholic beverages. They can become seriously intoxicated and get very sick very fast from drinking even a small amount! This is called alcohol toxicity.

Alcohol toxicity can result from consuming many substances, including:

  • Ethanol (found in alcoholic beverages)
  • Cough syrup
  • Raw bread dough
  • Isopropanol (found in rubbing alcohol)
  • Methanol (found in windshield wiper fluid)

These alcohols are quickly absorbed in the pet’s body within 20-30 minutes. Such ingredients can even be absorbed through the skin of small pets when alcohol-based sprays are used.

Signs of illness caused by alcohol intoxication generally occur within just 30-60 minutes of intake and include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Ataxia (manifesting as a “drunken” gait)
  • Disorientation
  • Dull mental status
  • Difficulty breathing

In severe cases, the following serious conditions can occur:

  • Coma
  • Hypothermia
  • Seizures
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Death

Veterinary care must be sought immediately as a medical treatment for decontamination is usually only effective in the first 20-40 minutes after the alcohol is consumed. The good news is that prognosis can be very good with aggressive treatment, depending on the amount swallowed.

If you believe your pet has ingested alcohol, please seek veterinary emergency help right away. Know where your nearest 24/7 veterinary emergency clinic is located and keep the phone number handy. You may also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

This St. Patrick’s Day, kissing the Blarney Stone may not be practical for everyone. But kissing your pet is! HEALS wishes you a safe and happy celebration and may the luck of the Irish rise up to meet you.

HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help paying for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email

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