Beautiful smiling dogYou probably know that sharing your brew with Fido isn’t smart or safe, but few people realize that the hops used to make beer are also toxic to pets. With the increase in people brewing their own beers, more people now have hops in their homes or gardens. If you are among those who have taken up home brewing, keep reading so that you can know all you need to about hops toxicity in dogs.

The Problem with Hops

Hops, better known to you scientific types as Humulus lupulus, are a type of plant used in brewing beer. It isn’t known exactly what the toxic component in the plant is, but we do know that hops toxicity in dogs (and actually cats as well) is a very real and dangerous thing.

The dried hops plugs tend to be more toxic than pellets, but ingestion of either can be enough to cause death within just hours of ingestion.

Hops Toxicity in Dogs

Dogs often eat things that we can’t imagine being remotely appetizing. The hops plant itself is quite bitter, yet hops toxicity in dogs is not uncommon. Dogs might eat them off the vine outside or gain access to unused hops in brewing supplies. Dogs may also ingest spent hops after brewing if they are not properly disposed. Dumping used brewing hops sediment in your yard or compost might also expose an unsuspecting pet to a toxic substance.

When hops are ingested, a condition known as malignant hyperthermia can develop. This is an uncontrollable rise in body temperature that can be fatal. While any pet can succumb to hops toxicity, certain breeds, such as greyhounds, seem to be more sensitive. Symptoms of hops toxicity include:

  • Elevated temperature (often in excess of 105 F)
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety/agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Clotting disturbances
  • Seizure
  • Death

The high temperatures associated with malignant hyperthermia can lead to brain damage and serious internal organ damage.

If a dog ingests hops, it is an emergency situation. Aggressive treatment to prevent absorption is needed. We might induce vomiting, perform gastric lavage (rinse the stomach), administer activated charcoal, and/or administer enemas to reduce the toxic effects of the plant. We would work to maintain a normal body temperature and use medications to help control the symptoms of toxicity.

Unfortunately, the prognosis, even with aggressive treatment, is poor and many times owners are not aware that ingestion has occurred until it is too late. The best course of action is to take steps to ensure that your pets do not have access to hops at any point in time.

If you think that your dog may have been exposed to hops, do not delay in calling us. Treating hops toxicity depends on your quick action in order to ensure the best possible outcome. We hope that you never need us for this type of serious poisoning. However, if you do, know that your pet is in the best hands possible at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services.