Special Report: The Dangers Of Giving Alcohol To Your Pets (VIDEO)

By Stephanie Parkinson - 21Alive

November 21, 2013 Updated Nov 21, 2013 at 7:19 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) - It can be a way to kick back and relax, or a way to be social with friends. Having a few drinks. But for your pets, even one alcoholic drink can be deadly.

"They think it's kind of a harmless prank, but in truth you can do really bad damage with, you know, no malicious intent at all," said Dr. Brandon Stapleton, veterinarian.

Dr. Stapleton is one of the veterinarians who works regular shifts in Fort Wayne's emergency vet clinic. He says he sees this more than you might think.

"I mean it has the potential to kill them for sure," said Stapleton.

Stapleton says even before there are visible signs of intoxication there's already damage being done. There can be damage to their central nervous system. They might start struggling with breathing. Their blood sugar could drop, and a common one is obviously dehydration.

They may bark once or twice when they want our attention, but overall pets can't communicate how they're feeling to their owners.

"Everyone's kind of used to the drunken stupor, if you will, you know, kind of the falling over and all that. And some people don't realize what bad things can be happening, even during that, but I think it's when they either don't come out of that, as fast as they might expect them to, or when they get to essentially, almost what appears to be a comatose type state, where things are obviously quickly going downhill. I think that really scares people, and rightfully so," said Stapleton.

Dr. Stapleton says, often times, once people realize just how dangerous it is they're often very remorseful.

"A lot of people don't realize it's not something that we can really push through, and it's not even like other toxins where there are things we can give to absorb it. Those things don't traditionally work very well with alcohol either, and so you're really stuck in a situation where all we can do is support them, try and change those bad things. So the dehydration, the low blood sugar and all that, and just hope that they can pull through on their own. And most will, with really good supportive care, but, I mean, there are some that won't," said Stapleton.

It's clear giving pets alcohol is harmful, but in most cases Dr. Stapleton feels these acts are not abusive.

"Animal abuse tends to be more defined, I guess, legally more than anything as kind of a direct act. I mean we're trying to cause harm to an animal in that regard. So it isn't in the direct sense, but I guess in the sense of ignorance you could say it is, in those cases where we're just giving alcohol to a dog to watch them get drunk, because we think it's funny," said Stapleton.

But in the long term that fun could lead to the loss of man's best friend.

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