St. Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on March 17. Named after St. Patrick, an Irish bishop who died in the year 492, the holiday officially began as a feast day in the 17th century.  Nowadays, St. Patrick’s Day is more commonly associated with lively parades, secular celebrations of Irish culture and, of course, beer. 

From green-tinted Budweiser to Guinness, most contemporary St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are not complete without some sort of beer.  If you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a drink, please make sure to keep your pets away from any and all alcoholic beverages.  Because they’re much smaller than people, pets can become seriously intoxicated from even small amounts of alcohol.

Alcohol toxicity can happen from ingestion of ethanol (in alcoholic beverages, cough syrup, raw bread dough), isopropanol (in rubbing alcohol) or methanol (in windshield wiper fluid).  All of these alcohols are rapidly absorbed from the GI tract within 20-30 minutes of ingestion. 

Alcohol may be absorbed through the skin.  This can be seen mostly with small pets and alcohol-based sprays.  Clinical signs of intoxication generally occur within 30-60 minutes of ingestion.  Signs may include vomiting, diarrhea, ataxia (“drunken” gait), disorientation, dull mental status, and difficulty breathing.  In severe cases, coma, hypothermia, seizures, heart arrhythmias, hypoglycemia and death may occur.

Decontamination procedures (induction of vomiting, administration of activated charcoal) are usually only effective in the first 20-40 minutes after ingestion.  Once symptoms develop, aggressive supportive care should be started (IV fluid therapy, heat support and cardiovascular and respiratory support).  Depending on the amount ingested, prognosis can be very good with aggressive treatment. 

If you believe your pet has ingested alcohol, please seek emergency help right away.  Newtown Veterinary Specialists is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and on all holidays (St. Patrick’s Day included).  You may also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

In addition, if you’ll be driving during St. Patrick’s Day weekend, practice safe driving with a designated driver and buckle up–this includes pets.  Pets can be hurt just like people in automobile accidents.  Safety harnesses for riding in the car may be purchased or you can use a crate or other confinement method. For more information on safe car travel, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s web site at:


If you plan on toasting the holiday with an alcoholic beverage, toast Sláinte, a Gaelic word meaning health. The staff at Newtown Veterinary Specialists wishes you—and your pets—a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day celebration!