Activated Charcoal in Dogs: 12 Facts, Benefits, Risks

Dogs are naturally inquisitive creatures who want to explore their environment by sniffing and eating anything that catches their eye. Therefore, it is not surprising that they frequently find themselves in unexpected situations. Looking into the contents of yesterday’s garbage to the latest cleaning product, there’s a lot to ponder. The things they get up to are usually gross but not dangerous.

On rare occasions, however, your dog may come into contact with something toxic. The use of activated charcoal is warranted here. Through binding, it lessens exposure to the poisonous substance and the likelihood of poisoning for your dog.

What is Activated Charcoal?

To create activated charcoal, wood must be burned at very high temperatures. The product is then “activated,” which is a process that produces additional holes and crevices in the charcoal to increase its surface area, thereby increasing its binding capacity.

Dogs are given the resulting product orally to remove poisons from their digestive tracts.

The majority of OTC activated charcoal products are ineffective, but there are some that work well.

Can dogs have activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is safe for dogs. When given as directed after a dog has ingested a toxic substance, activated charcoal poses no risk to the animal. Activated charcoal should only be given to animals if it has been given the green light by a veterinarian.

As soon as possible after your dog has ingested the poison, give them activated charcoal. One to five grams of activated charcoal should be given for every kilogram of your dog’s weight.

What Does Activated Charcoal Look Like?

There are numerous forms of activated charcoal available. The most common form of administration in veterinary medicine is an oral solution.

It is available for purchase as a dark liquid or can be made from activated charcoal powder and water in a vet’s office.

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A small amount of food or an oral syringe are used to administer the liquid to the patient.

How Does Activated Charcoal Work?

Veterinary technician observing dogActivated charcoal is a treatment administered to dogs that have consumed toxins. The charcoal is a black, thick substance that comes in liquid, powder, or tablet form.

Black charcoal is produced by heating natural carbon resources, such as wood and coconut shells, at temperatures between 600 and 900 degrees Celsius.

In order to facilitate toxin binding, the surface area is increased through the ‘activation’ process, which involves the removal of molecules and the formation of cracks and crevices known as pores. This opens up channels for the activated charcoal to absorb the toxins in the stomach and intestines. This method is effective and efficient. In just 180 minutes, toxins can be reduced by 80 percent when using activated charcoal.

The pores in activated charcoal are not large enough to bind all poisons; this limits its usefulness to only a subset of toxins. Sorbitol, a laxative, is included with the activated charcoal.

Sorbitol’s osmotic effect aids in the elimination of toxins. Your dog’s system will be cleansed of toxins as the activated charcoal is eliminated in the dog’s feces.

Symptoms of canine poisoning:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • seizures
  • stool containing blood
  • lethargy
  • an absence of hunger
  • bruising
  • nosebleeds

What is Activated Charcoal Used For in Dogs?

Following ingestion of a poison, activated charcoal is administered to cleanse the digestive tract.

Your veterinarian may first advise inducing vomiting to remove as much of the toxin as possible from your dog’s stomach, but this will depend on the type of toxin and how much time has passed since your dog ingested the substance.

Any remaining toxin is then bound by activated charcoal before it can be absorbed into the body. Activated charcoal may need to be administered multiple times over the course of several hours in extreme cases.

Dogs are often given activated charcoal after ingesting harmful substances like:

  • prescription or over-the-counter
  • Rodenticides
  • Marijuana
  • Narcotics
  • Aspirin
  • Acetaminophen
  • Pesticides containing organophosphates or carbamates
  • Pyrethrins
  • Strychnine

It should be noted that activated charcoal is not always the best option, especially if your dog has been poisoned.

Activated charcoal may not be effective against all toxins, and it may be difficult for your veterinarian to administer other treatments while charcoal is present in your dog’s digestive system.

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Due to this, it is crucial that you never give your dog activated charcoal at home unless specifically instructed to do so by your vet.

Activated Charcoal Side Effects in Dogs

Adverse reactions to activated charcoal can be severe, even fatal, and are more likely to occur if the charcoal is administered improperly. Patients with severe dehydration, gastrointestinal bleeding, or symptoms of bowel obstruction should also avoid using these products.

Only administer activated charcoal if instructed to do so by your vet. To alleviate the negative effects of activated charcoal, your vet may suggest additional therapies, such as intravenous fluids and anti-nausea and anti-vomiting drugs.

Activated charcoal can have the following potential side effects in dogs:

  • Extremely high blood sodium levels, also known as hypernatremia.
  • Causes pneumonia and other breathing issues due to aspiration.
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Caused by a blockage in the digestive tract
  • Toxic black poop
  • Itchy eyes

How do I know if my dog can have it?

Activated charcoal is a common recommendation for decontaminating pets. It has some usefulness and efficacy constraints, but this is true of most treatments. The limitation is that activated charcoal is only effective against a subset of toxins.

Whereas it has no effect on others. Activated charcoal should only be given to dogs if the vet gives the green light. The following are some of the poisons that activated charcoal can remove:

  • strychnine
  • narcotics
  • ibuprofen
  • chocolate
  • pyrethrins
  • marijuana
  • aspirin
  • prescriptions
  • bromethalin
  • rodenticides
  • acetaminophen

Your veterinarian may also decide that vomiting must be induced. Even though activated charcoal is used to remove the remaining toxins, this helps clear out some of the toxins first.

Sometimes activated charcoal doesn’t work. Furthermore, the supplement shouldn’t be given in some cases. Be on the lookout for the following warning signs in your dog. Do not give activated charcoal to a dog exhibiting toxicity signs such as vomiting, convulsions, or restlessness.

The dog’s behavior is also a consideration; the supplement should not be given to a dog exhibiting neurological symptoms. Be aware of your dog’s swallowing habits as well.

Your dog may aspirate if they are having trouble swallowing. The situation is extremely dangerous, even potentially fatal. This is because activated charcoal dust can get into the lungs of your pet and cause pneumonia.

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Reactions with Other Drugs and Medications

Since activated charcoal can bind to numerous medications, it may lessen the effectiveness of some of the most commonly used drugs. If your dog has taken any oral medications in the past day, be sure to inform your vet.

In order to prevent the medication from being affected by the activated charcoal, your vet may suggest changing your dog’s dosing schedule.

Activated Charcoal Dosages for Dogs

Veterinarian with senior Jack Russell

Dosing for activated charcoal can vary from product to product, but it is typically given as a percentage of your dog’s body weight.

If the product contains a cathartic agent like sorbitol, for example, the dosage must be carefully monitored to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Activated charcoal may need to be given multiple times for some toxins to be effectively removed. Before giving activated charcoal to your dog, talk to your vet or a poison control center.

Cost of Activated Charcoal for Dogs

Activated charcoal doesn’t break the bank. In some cases, especially with larger dogs or more severe cases, it may be necessary to use several bottles of the veterinary-specific oral suspensions of activated charcoal, which can cost anywhere from $20 to $30.

The cost of treatment may rise if additional drugs are required to counteract activated charcoal’s toxic effects and unpleasant side effects.

Activated Charcoal Storage Instructions

Activated charcoal comes in a variety of forms, and most of them are very stable when left out at room temperature.

Protect activated charcoal from the elements by keeping it in a cool, dry place. Make sure you read the manufacturer’s storage recommendations on the product’s packaging.

Giving your dog activated charcoal

Activated charcoal is typically given orally by a syringe by both humans and veterinarians. However, if your pet isn’t cooperative or unable to swallow, a stomach tube may be required. The dietary supplement should be given gradually.

Give your dog the medicine gradually, and make sure to give it enough time to consume it.

Dogs can eat the charcoal on their own if they’re interested. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends adding activated charcoal to a dog’s food bowl to entice him to eat.

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