Dough left on a counter to rise is tempting for many dogs. However, the yeast in rising bread dough produces ethanol-when dogs ingest the dough, their internal body temperature causes the dough to rise rapidly, producing more and more ethanol. Clinical signs of toxicosis occur rapidly as the ethanol is absorbed. Such signs include behavior changes, vocalization, ataxia, CNS depression, and urinary incontinence. When the ethanol levels continue to rise, respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, and ultimately death may occur. The Animal Poison Control Center receives the most calls about this toxicosis around holidays, especially Easter and Christmas. If ingestion is noted but no clinical signs are present, emesis may be effective. However, the dough mass may block the esophageal sphincter and emesis may not be effective and rupture of the stomach is a risk. Cold water lavage may slow the fermentation process and remove portions of the dough.

More often, dogs present with clinical signs of toxicosis already occurring. If they are ataxic or have CNS depression, emesis should not be induced. Blood alcohol levels may be obtained at most human hospitals and are useful to confirm toxicosis. Management of the ethanol toxicosis includes IV fluids, management of metabolic acidosis, and monitoring body temperature. If the dog is comatose or has severe respiratory depression, yohimbine, an α2-adrenergic antagonist, can be used. Yohimbine should be reserved for cases of life-threatening coma or severe respiratory depression and should be discontinued once the dog regains consciousness.

COMMENTARY: Many owners may not realize that ingestion of dough can be life-threatening and may not bring the dog in for treatment until toxicosis has fully developed. Since many people bake their own bread, especially around holidays, raising awareness of the risks may help decrease potentially fatal situations.

Bread dough toxicosis in dogs. Means C. J VET EMERG CRIT CARE 13:39-41, 2003.