A veterinarian explains why beer is off the menu for your favorite four-legged friend.

By Brendan Howard
February 04, 2021
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Many of us enjoy a beer or two on a hot day (or a cold day or any day). But is it safe to drink a cold one with your dogs? And what if your dog accidentally drinks beer or other alcohol that was sitting out? 

The short answer is, beer is bad for dogs, dogs shouldn't drink beer, and even a little alcohol of any kind could cause alcohol poisoning in your favorite canine.

Here are the dangers of offering beer and other alcohol to dogs, even in small amounts, and what to do if you're worried your dog drank too much.

Beer Is Bad for Dogs

Beer is at the top of the list of food or drink humans enjoy that can be toxic to dogs. Even a taste out of your glass or a dog lapping up spilled beer off the kitchen floor could be bad for your dog's health.

Beer, even in small amounts, is bad news for dogs, says Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, a veterinarian toxicologist who works with Pet Poison Helpline.

"During the fermentation process to form beer, ethanol, or grain alcohol, is produced," Schmid says. That alcohol gives you the dizzy, tipsy, wobbly state of mind you might experience when you drink a few beers. But you're a big human being, and your dog, even a big dog, is likely much smaller.

Small dog licks outside of frosty beer glass
Credit: Javier Zayas Photography / Getty

"It takes very little alcohol in animals for poisoning to develop," she says. "Only a few licks in small dogs is often enough for them to appear 'drunk.'"

And a dog that seems drunk has likely been poisoned.

What Happens If a Dog Drinks Beer or Another Type of Alcohol?

When a dog drinks enough beer (again, even a little bit for smaller breeds), they can appear confused, have difficulty walking and standing, as well as become more lethargic (sluggish). 

"Additional signs of alcohol poisoning in a dog could include decreased breathing rate, low body temperature and abnormalities in the electrolytes, because of dehydration," Schmid says. "Low blood sugar frequently develops, which may result in body tremors and seizures."

Your watchful eye for signs of a poisoning or toxic reaction from food and household items could be the difference between life and death for a dog.

How to Treat and Prevent Alcohol Poisoning in Dogs

If your dog appears drunk after drinking beer or other alcohol, you need to head to the veterinarian right away, Schmid says. Only induce vomiting at home when a dog is poisoned if a veterinarian instructs you to do so.

"These drunk-looking dogs typically always require a veterinary visit because of the significant signs that can develop, which are often life-threatening," she says. "They should never be allowed to 'sleep it off.'"

At the veterinary hospital, a veterinarian can help hydrate your dog, regulate your dog's blood sugar levels and body temperature, and provide supportive care.

Dog Beer: The Safer Way to Share a Pint With Your Pup

Beer and other alcohol should be kept away from dogs and never deliberately offered as a treat. If you're feeling generous, there are safer human foods to give Fido.

"Dogs being dogs seem to be attracted to eating or drinking just about anything," Schmid says. "I don't think they're particularly attracted to beer or alcohol, but they're curious, they love to consume things, and they explore with their mouths."

If your heart is set on cracking open a can of something beer-ish with your dog, there is a safe, alcohol-free alternative: Busch Beer makes Busch Dog Brew, a flavored beef broth in a can. It's safe for you to drink too, but we're not recommending it as particularly tasty for humans (trust us, we tried it).

"My first instinct is, 'gross,'" says Schmid, who read about it in a press release.

Second, while Busch's dog beer is perfectly safe to taste-test and offer to dogs, Schmid says—with a veterinarian's trademark abundance of caution—that she worries that cans of beer (bad for dogs) and cans of Dog Brew (OK for dogs) could get accidentally switched.

"The cans are similar enough to real beer that I would be afraid that they could get mixed in the fridge and Fido inadvertently be given real beer," she says.

While it might not be as much fun as sharing a craft beer with your pooch, Schmid says plain water—the universal source of hydration for dogs and their people—is the best choice for your dog while you enjoy your beer.