Activated charcoal is one of the most commonly used medications that can be prescribed to dogs that have ingested something poisonous. However, it does not work for all toxic substances, and it should be administered in a specific way in order for it to do its job.
If you believe that your dog has swallowed anything toxic, get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
In today’s article, we’re looking at how activated charcoal works, when it should be given to dogs, whether it has any adverse effects, and what poisons it has no effect on.
Activated Charcoal Dosage
Since this is the title of the article, we decided we’d begin with the dosage recommended for dogs.
There isn’t a universal amount that can be used on all pets, though, since dogs tend to vary a lot from one individual to the next in terms of weight.
The standard activated charcoal dosage is 1 to 5 grams for each kg (2.2 pounds) of body weight. That means that if your dog weighs in at 10 pounds, the amount of activated charcoal that you can safely give him/her is 5 to 22 grams.
How does activated charcoal work for dogs?
This substance, whether you administer it to your dog in its liquid, powder, or tablet form, is effective in absorbing whatever might be inside your dog’s stomach. The charcoal binds with the stomach contents in the presence of gastric juice.
For this reason, if your dog doesn’t vomit and you know that they have ingested something toxic, you can first give him or her some water and then some activated charcoal — especially if you use the solid form, such as tablets or powder.
Please note that some toxic substances are quickly absorbed into the pet’s bloodstream, making activated charcoal ineffective against them.
Signs of poisoning in dogs
Dogs can ingest a variety of toxic substances and foods, but some of the typical symptoms that can be noticed if they have swallowed poison are the following:
- Excessive salivation
- Blood in the feces
- Increased thirst and urination
- Weakness, lethargy, or collapse
- Vomiting, nausea, or dry heaving
What poisons does activated charcoal work for?
Unfortunately, this substance does not work for all toxic things that dogs can ingest. It can only bind with specific products, such as OTC medications, rodenticides, and a variety of drugs that might be completely harmless to humans, but can be deadly to our canine friends.
Two examples are acetaminophen and aspirin, which are commonly used by people but are extremely dangerous in some situations to dogs.
Activated charcoal also works if your dog ingested one of the following:
- Insecticides (especially carbamate and organophosphate ones)
What poisons is activated charcoal ineffective against?
This substance cannot bind to all types of poisons that your dog might have ingested. In fact, in some cases, its administration might not be recommended given that it could complicate your pet’s health status even further and make treatment more difficult.
Activated charcoal cannot bind to the following substances:
- Heavy metals (copper, arsenic, iron, lead, and lithium, which are commonly found in cosmetics, electronics, batteries etc.)
- Petroleum distillates (from gasoline to pesticides)
- Chemicals such as metaldehyde, nitrates, xylitol, or ethylene glycol
- Alcohols (mouthwash, hand sanitizers, essential extracts & more)
Additionally, as your vet can tell you, activated charcoal is not recommended in instances where your dog’s swallowing is obviously difficult, as when giving him/her the substance, you could inadvertently cause aspiration pneumonia (ab ingestis pneumonia), which can be deadly.
When to give activated charcoal to dogs
First of all, if your dog got into your cabinet and ate any food that contains xylitol, including chewing gum or chocolate, you should know that activated charcoal will do nothing in the way of curing your pet.
Have a look at the list that we have showcased above to know whether this might be the solution to the problem or not. But the most important piece of advice that we can give you is to get in touch with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Your vet will know if activated charcoal works for whatever your dog ingested, and while medical assistance is almost always necessary in all poisoning cases, you might be allowed to give your pooch this remedy until you get to the vet clinic.
Typically, and if not too long has passed since your dog has ingested the poison and you managed to get to the animal hospital quickly, the vet will first try to induce vomiting to get rid of most of the toxic substance and only then administer activated charcoal.
Does giving activated charcoal to your dog have any side effects?
The short answer to this question is yes.
First of all, you should never give activated charcoal to your pet if your veterinarian hasn’t expressly given you permission to do this. We already mentioned aspiration pneumonia, but that’s one of the many things that can go wrong — not to mention that activated charcoal might not even be effective in combating the effects of poisoning in some cases.
Every dog’s body is different, so you can expect a range of side effects. Some animals might not suffer any adverse reactions whatsoever, but others could show the following symptoms:
- Gastrointestinal distress like vomiting and diarrhea
- Black stools
- High blood sodium
- Intestinal blockage
How much does activated charcoal cost?
The agent itself is quite affordable as some products can cost as little as five dollars, and the price of others can go up to twenty.
As for the treatment of the intoxication at the vet clinic, the costs can vary depending on a number of factors, such as what exactly your dog ate, whether he/she has any other health conditions, the number of days your pet is kept under observation at the hospital, and others. You can expect to pay a minimum of $500-$600 and a maximum of $3,000 and more.