Equine Alcohol Intoxication: beer drinking and welfare

We've discussed here whether you can drink and ride, and we've discussed waiting to have a glass of wine until after all your riding and barn chores, but to what extent should you give alcohol to your horse?

There is certainly a line between right and wrong, as with most controversial topics.

What is YOUR horse drinking?

Some (and I dare say most) vets would confirm that a limited amount of alcohol given to a horse wouldn't be detrimental at all.  Here is an article that asserts 1) horses have enzymes in their gut that actually ferments their raw oats and grains as part of healthy digestion and 2) intoxication correlates with body size to amount of alcohol, so one beer would have little effect on a 1000 pound horse, unlike a 10 pound dog.

Speaking of dogs, Here, one blogger writes of his desire to "get my dog drunk," though he feels bad that the dog won't know what is happening to her as she becomes intoxicated and disoriented.

Just because it is legal to give your animal alcohol, doesn't necessarily make it right.

California Civil Code Section 597, the primary law relating to cruelty of animals, states that:

"Whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, or in any manner abuses any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, or who drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is for every such offense, guilty of a crime punishable as a misdemeanor or as a felony or alternatively punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony and by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000)." (Emphases added by me).

I do not intend to pass judgment or assert welfare violations by the blogger noted above, I merely use his post as an example of the sometimes blurry line between right and wrong.  By reading other parts of his blog, he seems to love his dog (who knows if he ever even followed through with his intent, or if it was merely a joke, and presumably a dog would not continue to drink beer if she didn't like it, especially if water was readily available).

I have let my horses sip at a beer after a horse show, and Zenyatta the racehorse is known to have a particular affection for stout beers (and has a cocktail named after her!).  Some people make a regular habit of adding beer to a winter's mash, and you wouldn't believe the number of online videos of horses drinking beer!




The article written by the vet offers one warning:  sensitive horses could be allergic to the sulfates in some alcohol, like red wine.
At the same time, she wrote that stout beers like Guinness can in fact be nutritious due to the mineral content.

While animal welfare should always come first, I think that most horses can safely (and legally) have a couple glasses of wine or bottles of beer.  As always, I recommend withholding any alcohol consumption (by you OR your horse!) until the end of all barn work and chores.

Happy Monday!  I hope you all enjoyed your LAST August weekend!