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My Pet World: Can our pets become alcoholics?

January 04, 2011

Recently, I celebrated 15 years of answering your questions. Here are some favorites among the thousands I've received:

Q: My cat got into my wine glass while I was away from the table. I caught him red-handed with the red wine. I noticed he enjoyed it. I don't think he got drunk but he sure did sleep well that night. I know that because he's so small even a few licks could be damaging. I don't think this will happen again, but I'm curious. Are there any alcoholic dogs or cats? Also, is alcohol any more dangerous for pets than for people? — S.E., Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A: Dr. Steve Hansen, a veterinary toxicologist and director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Center, Urbana, Ill., says, "The primary reasons we don't want pets drinking alcohol is that their bodies aren't adjusted to it. And if they over-indulge, they may lose balance and fall from a counter or down stairs."

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Also, it's true that just a few sips for a cat or small dog may be equivalent to a glass of wine for a person. There are no known studies on long-term use of alcohol in dogs or cats. However, Hansen suggests that pets, cats in particular, may be even more susceptible than people to renal, and especially liver issues, from too much of a good thing.

By the way, there are anecdotal stories of dogs who've been encouraged to imbibe, particularly in college fraternities; so certainly, alcohol addiction is possible. In fact, on St. Kitt's in the Caribbean (as it happens, the home of Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine), monkeys who live near the beach visit local bars and many are truly addicted to alcohol.

Q: How do you potty-train a baby iguana? — J.D., Cyberspace

A: Iguanas are naturally clean, according to James Hatfield III, author of "Green Iguana: The Ultimate Owners Manual."

Your enclosure must be spacious, giving your iguana a place to do its business away from its primary living space.

Stack three pieces of paper towel together and place them inside two full pages of newspaper (folded paper towel size). Tape the edges together with masking tape. You've just created an absorbent iguana toilet. Construct several of these "toilets" so you always have replacements handy.

Place toilets in two corners in the iguana's habitat; choose places where your lizard is now relieving itself. Encourage your iguana further by putting a sign on the toilet that says, 'Go here!' Because iguanas can't read, however, placing bits of feces on the toilet will have same effect.

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