Raw bread dough made with yeast poses mechanical and
biochemical hazards when ingested, including gastric distention, metabolic acidosis,
and CNS depression. Although any species is susceptible, dogs are most commonly
involved because of their indiscriminate eating habits.
The warm, moist environment of the stomach serves as an
efficient incubator for the replication of yeast within the dough. The expanding
dough mass causes the stomach to distend, resulting in vascular compromise to
the gastric wall similar to that seen in gastric dilatation/volvulus. With
sufficient gastric distention, respiratory compromise occurs. Yeast fermentation
products include ethanol, which is absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in
inebriation and metabolic acidosis.
Early clinical signs may include unproductive attempts at
emesis, abdominal distention, and depression. As ethanol intoxication develops,
the animal becomes ataxic and disoriented. Eventually, profound CNS depression,
weakness, recumbency, coma, hypothermia, or seizures may be seen. Death is
usually due to the effects of the alcohol rather than from gastric distention;
however, the potential for dough to trigger gastric dilatation/volvulus in
susceptible dog breeds should not be overlooked.
A presumptive diagnosis can be based on history of
exposure and clinical signs. Blood ethanol levels are consistently increased in
cases of bread dough toxicosis. Differential diagnoses include gastric
dilatation/volvulus, foreign body obstruction, ethylene glycol toxicosis,
and ingestion of other CNS depressants (eg, benzodiazepines).
With recent ingestions in asymptomatic animals, emesis may
be attempted, although the glutinous nature of bread dough may make removal via
emesis difficult. In animals in which emesis (whether induced or spontaneous)
has been unsuccessful, gastric lavage may be attempted. Cold water introduced
into the stomach may slow the rate of yeast fermentation and aid in dough
removal. In rare cases, surgical removal of the dough mass may be required.
Animals presenting with signs of alcohol toxicosis should be stabilized and any
life-threatening conditions corrected before attempts to remove the dough are
made. Alcohol toxicosis is managed by correcting acid-base abnormalities,
managing cardiac arrhythmias as needed, and maintaining normal body temperature.
Providing fluid diuresis to enhance alcohol elimination may be helpfu.
Anecdotally, yohimbine (0.1 mg/kg, IV) has been used to stimulate severely
comatose dogs with alcohol toxicosis.
Last full review/revision May 2013 by Sharon M. Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT