Golden Retrievers Should Not Drink Beer: Here’s Why!


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Accidents happen. You spill a beer, and your Golden Retriever drinks some. Or you leave a beer unattended, and your Golden Retriever helps itself to the beverage. Now what? You panic and wonder if it is safe for a Golden Retriever to drink beer? 

Golden Retrievers should NEVER drink beer. Beer contains alcohol and hops. Alcohol cannot effectively be processed by a dog’s liver, potentially causing alcohol poisoning. In turn, hops can rapidly increase a dog’s body temperature to dangerous levels causing damage to the organs and brain and even death. 

Beer can be very harmful to a Golden Retriever

Now, most dogs will avoid beer. They do not prefer the smell and the alcohol is beer unappealing to them. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

Not all Golden Retrievers are the same. With different beer flavorings in today’s market, some might partake if given a chance. 

So, let’s look at some common issues with beer. Such as why beer is so bad, what amount is bad, symptoms of alcohol poisoning, and what to do if your Golden Retriever consumes some. 

Why Is Beer Dangerous for a Golden Retriever?

Beer is potentially hazardous to a Golden Retriever due to two potentially harmful ingredients, alcohol, and hops.

Alcohol

Alcohol or ethanol in humans is broken down by our liver. However, even in humans, too much alcohol at once or over a long period can cause irreparable damage. Why?

Our livers are designed to break down and filter harmful substances in our blood. And, yes, alcohol is a poisonous substance or toxin to our bodies. 

However, our livers can only break down so much alcohol in a given period. About 90 percent or more of alcohol is broken down by our livers.

The rest remains in the blood, which causes intoxication. Eventually, the remaining alcohol not processed by the liver will dissipate through our urine, breathing, or sweat. 

If a person drinks too much and the liver cannot break it down quickly enough, then too much can remain in the blood. This is alcohol poisoning. 

In large amounts or over long periods, the liver is at risk for liver disease due to the onslaught of alcohol toxins. Alcohol can cause the destruction of liver cells, which can cause a fatty liver, hepatitis, or cirrhosis. 

Are you getting the picture of why alcohol is harmful? Well, it’s worse for canines. 

In Golden Retriever, the liver cannot break down alcohol the same as our livers do. Because their livers cannot break down alcohol and detoxify their bloodstream, the alcohol remaining in the blood will quickly and permanently damage the liver. The result can often be rapid and fatal toxicity.

But, it’s not just the ethanol or alcohol. The hops in beer are also a potential concern or risk for a Golden Retriever. So, yes, hops are DANGEROUS for your dog too. 

Hops

So, beer has a double whammy: alcohol (ethanol) and hops. 

Few people realize hops are potentially dangerous for dogs. People may understand that alcohol is potentially harmful, but rarely does anyone make the connection with hops. 

Hops in beer can cause a rapid and potentially deadly rise in body temperature for Golden Retrievers

So, why are hops so bad. Hops can cause something called malignant hyperthermia. Malignant hyperthermia causes a rapid rise in a dog’s body temperature [source]. 

Consider that a dog’s average body temperature is below 102°F (40°C). However, if ingesting too many hops causes malignant hyperthermia, then a dog’s temperature can rapidly rise to 108°F (42°C) or higher.

The consequence of such a rise is permanent damage to the organs and brain or even death.

Some dog breeds are more susceptible to hops than others. More susceptible breeds include Retrievers, greyhounds, Saint Bernards, Pointers, Dobermans, border collies, and English springer spaniels [source]. 

More importantly, it is unknown what amount of hops is fatal. So, consider any amount too much. 

Golden Retrievers owners who brew their beer at home should be particularly cautious about ensuring their hops are out of reach for their dog. 

How Much Beer Is Bad for a Golden Retriever? 

No amount of beer is safe for a Golden Retriever. However, both weight and size do affect the potential risk of beer (alcohol) consumption on the health of a Golden Retriever. So, larger dogs have less chance of toxicity than smaller dogs. 

However, size and weight are not the only variables. Other factors include the age of the dog. 

Golden Retrievers puppies are not only smaller, but their livers and bodies are still developing, making them less able to handle issues. Senior dogs, in turn, may have other health issues or be less likely to deal with the alcohol than a younger, fit dog. 

Health obviously is a significant factor. Suppose a Golden Retriever has pre-existing health issues. In that case, it is far more likely to suffer ill effects from consuming beer. 

The amount is also a critical factor. The more beer your Golden Retriever ingests, the more at risk it is for poisoning and health consequences. 

And, the type of beer plays a role as well.

Lite beer has less ethanol and is less risky than regular beer, but can still be harmful. In contrast, some beers have much more alcohol (ethanol) than regular commercial beers such as Budweiser. 

In Canada, some of our beers, especially those from microbreweries, can pack a bunch and contain a lot of alcohol. 

For practical purposes, you should consider any quantity of beer to be poisonous to your dog.

Consider any amount of beer to be potentially toxic to your Golden Retriever

The amount of ethanol needed to cause intoxication varies depending on the concentration of the alcoholic beverage ingested. The established dose in dogs considered lethal is 5.5 to 7.9 g/kg of 100% ethanol. One milliliter of ethanol is equal to 0.789 g [source].

Therefore, the toxicity level is determined by the amount of alcohol consumed per 1 pound (0.45 kg) of dogs’ body weight. Thus, the same amount of alcohol will typically be more toxic to a dog with less body weight. 

Yeah, I know numbers can be confusing. So consider this example. A tiny 4-pound chihuahua would be at far greater risk for alcohol poisoning than a 75 pound Golden Retriever if they drank the same portion of beer. 

While the alcohol consumption is the same, the chihuahua weighs much less than the Golden Retriever. So its toxicity level as a percentage of its body weight will be much higher. 

One dog may have no issues, whereas it is fatal with the next dog. Additionally, the higher the percentage of alcohol, the less that needs to be ingested to cause problems. 

The table below shows various beers and their alcohol (ethanol) percentages. While beer is relatively low in alcohol compared to other alcoholic beverages, keep in mind that it is impossible to know if the amount consumed is dangerous. 

SUBSTANCEPROOF% ETHANOL BY VOLUME
Light beer5–72.5–3.5
Beer8–124–6
Ale10–165–8
Wine20–4010–20
Brandy70–8035–40
Rum80–8240–41
Vodka80–8240–41
Whiskey80–9040–45
Tequila80–9240–46
Gin80–9440–47

But what about non-alcoholic beer? No, non-alcoholic beer is typically not safe for Golden Retrievers because it still contains hops. So, while the alcohol is removed and one issue is eliminated, the hops remain. 

Another issue is carbonation. While not dangerous to Golden Retrievers per se, it can cause bloating and a distended abdomen in a canine and indigestion and discomfort. 

Symptoms of Alcohol Toxicity in a Golden Retriever 

Generally speaking, if your Golden Retriever has ingested too much alcohol, be it from beer, wine, or spirits, there will be symptoms of toxicity. 

Speaking of wine, it is equally as bad for your Golden Retriever. If you want to learn in detail what makes wine so harmful to your Golden Retriever you can read about it here: Can Golden Retrievers Drink Wine? (Is it Safe?)

It’s not the type of beverage but the alcohol in the drink. So, alcohol poisoning or toxicity symptoms will be the same if too much alcohol, including beer, is consumed. 

  • Reflexes begin to slow
  • The dog staggers or stumbles, shakes, or falls
  • Mentally disorientation or confusion 
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting 
  • Dehydration from increased urination
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Low blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature

In most cases, you can see the first signs of alcohol poisoning within 15 to 30 minutes of ingestion. However, depending on weight, age, and health status, that may occur sooner or later. 

So, for example, a smaller senior Golden Retriever with diabetes may show signs sooner than a healthy large Golden in its prime. 

In most cases, the first signs will be intoxication. Your Golden Retriever’s central nervous system (CNS) will be affected, and it will be uncoordinated and move slowly – just like an intoxicated person. At this point, it’s imperative to get your Golden Retriever to the vet immediately. 

But, alcohol is only one of the toxic culprits in beer. The other is hops. So, while you may think your Golden Retriever has dodged the alcohol bullet, it may still be at risk for hops poisoning. 

If your Golden Retriever has consumed some hops from your home brewing kit or beer (including non-alcoholic beer), then symptoms will include 

  • Increased body temperature
  • Panting or fast breathing, 
  • Stomach upset (vomiting or diarrhea) 
  • Agitation and an increase in heart rate

Like alcohol poisoning, symptoms can start rapidly within 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion. However, unlike alcohol, signs of hops toxicity can be delayed up to eight hours, although it is rare.  

What Should I Do if My Golden Retriever Drinks Beer? 

As a first step, immediately call our veterinarian if you suspect your Golden Retriever has ingested beer. Your veterinarian will most likely ask you to bring the dog in for an examination, especially if it is a significant amount. 

If it is after hours and the vet clinic is closed (or the dog is very sick), you can take your dog directly to the emergency room at an animal hospital. If one is not available in your area, call your vet while you are on the way so they expect your arrival and can prepare accordingly.  

However, unless advised by your vet (rare), do NOT cause the dog to vomit. 

Alternately, suppose your dog has consumed hops (even if they are not yet showing signs of hops toxicity). Again, in that case, you must take them to a veterinary clinic or pet hospital immediately.

The higher their temperature gets, the more dangerous their condition will become.  

Remember, malignant hyperthermia causes a very rapid rise in a dog’s body temperature, potentially causing permanent damage to the organs and brain or even death.

Treatment 

Appropriate treatment for alcohol poisoning from consuming too much beer will be dependent on the amount consumed and the severity of symptoms displayed. 

An initial examination with a blood panel will often be the first course of action if there are no symptoms or mild symptoms. However, if symptoms have progressed, your vet will work to stabilize your dog quickly. 

Your vet will confirm alcohol poisoning and take steps to treat your dog

Depending on when the beer or hops was consumed, the vet may induce vomiting to prevent further toxins from being released into the bloodstream. Your vet is most likely to do this if ingestion was within the previous two hours or less. 

Intravenous (IV) fluids will most likely be provided to address dehydration and to help support the kidney. IV fluids also help normalize urination which helps to expel the alcohol from the body.  

Medication may address CNS depression, such as low breathing and blood pressure. Additionally, drugs to inhibit the metabolism of alcohol may also be administered.

If your dog has breathing problems, artificial ventilation such as an oxygen mask or even a breathing tube may be necessary in more severe cases.

If hop’s poisoning is suspected, your veterinarian will take steps to monitor and safely bring down your dog’s body temperature.

However, suppose the ingestion was recent, and your furry friend is not showing any symptoms yet. Then your vet may also induce vomiting to remove the hops from the stomach and prevent further transmission to the bloodstream. 

Is It Okay To Give a Golden Retriever a Sip of Beer?

No, you should never give a Golden Retriever a sip of beer

While it might seem harmless to let your dog take the tiniest sip of beer, the bottom line is that it’s never okay to let your dog drink beer. There is just no way to know what amount is dangerous. 

Especially considering that Retrievers are one of the breeds most susceptible to hops poisoning, and alcohol poisoning can be impacted by many variables such as age, weight, and your dog’s health. 

So, you may have heard the saying, the dose is the poison. And that small sip of beer might be the exact dose that is harmful to your Golden Retriever. You just don’t know. 

Even if it is not, it is your responsibility as a pet parent to advocate for and protect your Golden Retriever. Your dog may not know what is potentially harmful to it, so it’s your job to keep it safe. 

Preventing a Golden Retriever From Ingesting Beer

Here are some essential tips to prevent your dog from consuming beer in the future.

  • Keep all beer stored out of reach of your dog. Doing so prevents a prying nose from knocking over a bottle or getting into a can. 
  • If you’re drinking beer and leave the room, take the beer or dog with you. Or alternately, put the beer up and away so your dog can’t get to it. 
  • If you spill a beer, remove your dog or secure it with a leash before cleaning it up. 
  • If you brew your own beer, make sure all your hops are secured and out of reach from your dog. Also, make sure any batch of beer – at any stage of the brewing process – is not accessible by your Golden Retriever. 
  • If you have friends over and they drink beer, then instruct them that under no circumstances should they give your dog any beer for the reasons discussed. 

So, you don’t have to give up drinking beer around your Golden Retriever. So, go ahead and enjoy that delicious beer – just make sure you enjoy it WITHOUT your Golden Retriever.

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