Your dog's enthusiasm for eating can sometimes lead to the accidental consumption of harmful substances like insecticides, bromethalin (the active ingredient in rat and mouse poison), aspirin, marijuana, chocolate, and other foods that are toxic to your pup. If you notice your pup licking up the remains of a known toxin or if you find him vomiting or suffering from diarrhea, call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately. Let the medical professionals know your pet's symptoms, as well as what and how much he might have ingested. Even if your dog is not displaying any discomfort, he still might have consumed the contaminated item. If you suspect that your dog has eaten a poisonous substance, your vet or the helpline's medical expert might recommend a remedy that might already be in your medicine cabinet: activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal for dogs
Commonly found in pharmacies and health food stores, activated charcoal is a food-grade pill, powder, liquid, or granule that binds and absorbs poison like a super sponge and helps expel the toxins from the body through the excretion of feces. Black, odorless, and tasteless, activated charcoal is made when coconut shells, olive pits, bamboo, or wood is carbonized or burned at an extremely high temperature and turned into ash. Activated charcoal helps to alleviate bloating, gas, heartburn, stomach pains, and even bad breath, and it used to be a staple at emergency rooms to treat food poisoning.
Many vets find activated charcoal a useful and cost-effective way to decontaminate their animal patients. Charcoal tablets for pets and dog biscuits with activated charcoal are sold at pet stores and online and are a handy item to keep in your dog's first aid kit. Give your pup the activated charcoal as soon as possible, as it helps maximize absorption of toxins and increase efficiency in expelling the unwanted substance.
A small 2015 study by the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society found that single-dose activated charcoal, single-dose activated charcoal with sorbitol, and multidose activated charcoal are equally effective in absorbing concentrated dosages of carprofen, an anti-inflammation and pain medication. Avoid adding food to the activated charcoal as it might reduce the absorption rate of the toxins. Activated charcoal does not get absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, so side effects, such as vomiting, hypernatremia (not being sufficiently hydrated), and aspiration pneumonia, are rare, though your dog's stool might come out black.
Activated charcoal limitations and caveats
Activated charcoal is an effective absorption tool and, in some cases, it may be too efficient and inadvertently absorb other essential nutrients that your dog needs. The general recommended dose is 5 grams (about half a tablespoon) per 10 pounds of weight, but check with your veterinarian before giving your dog activated charcoal. Do not give your pup activated charcoal if she ate corrosive materials like sodium hydroxide such as detergents or drain cleaners, or potassium hydroxide, which is an ingredient in liquid soaps.
Activated charcoal is not effective for the ingestion of chemicals such as ethanol, sodium chloride, fluoride, fertilizer, and many heavy metals. It also shows no benefits for binding xylitol, a sugar substitute found in sugar-free gums, candies, and baked goods, which is highly toxic to your dog.
Hydrogen peroxide dose for dogs
One other way to help your dog expel poison is to give him a small amount of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide — about 1 milliliter for every 1 pound of weight — less than two hours after exposure. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, "The only safe way to induce vomiting at home with dogs is utilizing 3-percent hydrogen peroxide."
- Consumer Reports: 8 Toxic Foods For Dogs
- Pet Poison Helpline
- DVM 360: When And How To Use Activated Charcoal
- Journal of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care: Effect of Sorbitol, Single, and Multidose Activated Charcoal
- Journal of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care: Effect of Dog Food on the Absorptive Capacity of Activated Charcoal
- Pet Poison Helpline: My Dog Just Ate Xylitol Gum. Is Xylitol Poisonous to Dogs?
- Pet MD: How to ... Make a Dog Vomit
- Pet Poison Helpline: Top Ten Things To Remember When Your Pet Is Poisoned