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What is Camphor Topical Poisoning?

The uses for camphor in the everyday medicine cabinet of many homes are numerous. Sunburn, cold sores, aching muscles, and cold congestion can all be remedied by the use of camphor topicals. There are also a few veterinary topical ointments, such as for muscle pain, that contain this product. Though not recommended, it is also sometimes used as a flea repellent when applied to a cloth and left in the open. It has been documented in veterinary natural medicine; care and knowledge are essential for proper use. Side effects from the improper use or ingestion of camphor can be skin irritation and vomiting. Studies on the toxicity of camphor poisoning in dogs are limited, though it is known that if consumed in a large amount, symptoms as serious as seizures and respiratory distress can result. If you suspect that your pet has ingested camphor, or if his skin is irritated from contact with this topical product, a visit to the clinic is warranted.

Camphor topical poisoning can occur when a canine accidentally ingests an ointment containing camphor, an oil which is extracted from the camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora). Products like Tiger Balm and Vicks Vaporub are commonly used in the home as liniments and expectorants but can be highly toxic to canines if left within their reach.

Camphor Topical Poisoning Average Cost

From 74 quotes ranging from $250 - $6,000

Average Cost

$1,000

Symptoms of Camphor Topical Poisoning in Dogs

Skin

Your pet may be exposed to camphor if he comes into contact with a product like Tiger Balm. There is also the chance of an adverse reaction to a veterinary prescribed ointment for muscle pain containing camphor (particularly if your canine is of the sporting breed and you utilize a liniment for muscle stiffness). Overuse of the liniment can also result in skin irritation.

  • Redness of skin
  • The eyes may be irritated also due to the fumes
  • Pawing at skin
  • Licking at area where applied

Ingestion

If your dog came into contact with the camphor topical ointment and it remains on his skin or fur, chances are he will ingest this toxic substance as he attempts to remove it from the skin. In addition, though camphor is not known to be palatable to dogs, curiosity may win over and your canine could ingest a dangerous amount as he chews on a bottle or tube of ointment or cream containing it.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritation of mucus membranes
  • Burning of throat and mouth
  • Depression

Most cases of camphor topical poisoning will be of mild toxicity simply due to the fact that exposure of this product is not common; however, if your dog does consume an entire container of Tiger Balm or licks a large amount of topical ointment from his body, symptoms can be as serious as seizure, central nervous system depression, and risk of aspiration or pneumonia (all which can lead to death).

Types

Some of the topical products containing camphor are listed here.

  • Corona Veterinary Ointment
  • Vicks Vapor Rub
  • Carmex
  • Tiger Balm
  • Campho-Phenique
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Causes of Camphor Topical Poisoning in Dogs

  • Absorption across the skin is rapid
  • Applying to broken skin increases toxic effects
  • Licking of the fur can lead to poisoning
  • Other compounds mixed with camphor can be highly dangerous when ingested (like isopropyl alcohol)
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Diagnosis of Camphor Topical Poisoning in Dogs

If you witness your pet chewing on a container of topical ointment containing camphor, try to retrieve the packaging so you can bring it with you to the clinic. Immediate care is recommended because of the rapid absorption and the risk of serious symptoms that can lead to consequences, like aspiration of the ointment.

The veterinarian will do a physical examination which could show that there are signs of respiratory difficulty or irritation and burning of the mucus membranes. Other clinical signs, including vomiting and an odor of camphor on the breath can verify the poisoning. Depending on the severity of your pet’s case, the veterinarian may want to admit your pet for treatment right away, before doing a urinalysis or ordering blood work.

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Treatment of Camphor Topical Poisoning in Dogs

There is no antidote for camphor topical poisoning; measures are put in place to remove the substance from the body and to provide supportive care. A mild case will require a checkup to ensure no lasting damage has occurred and to provide medication if needed for mucus membrane or gastrointestinal irritation. In severe cases, hospitalization will be needed so the supportive care can begin.

Gastric Lavage

Vomiting is not typically induced due to the high risk of aspiration of the camphor containing product. The veterinarian may perform gastric lavage to flush out the stomach contents but this will depend on the time of ingestion and the condition of your pet.

Active Charcoal

The administration of active charcoal is decided case by case depending on symptoms and the amount ingested.

Medication

Medication to control seizures will be given if needed.

Monitoring

Vital signs, respiration, and organ function (such as kidneys) will be constant as the veterinary team stabilizes your pet.

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Recovery of Camphor Topical Poisoning in Dogs

Instances of gastrointestinal upset may resolve within hours; the recovery of an extensive case of camphor topical poisoning will be longer. The prognosis is good if treatment is adequate and timely. You may be given special feeding instructions for your pet if there has been mucosal injury that needs to heal. A return visit to the clinic will be required as per the veterinarian’s decision. Always keep all medicines, household products, and food out of reach of your pet and children.

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Camphor Topical Poisoning Average Cost

From 74 quotes ranging from $250 - $6,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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Camphor Topical Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Docker

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Eight Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

My 30lb dog, Barkleton, got into a jar of tiger balm about 1.5 hours ago. I found the jar and it looks like he dug 2 nails in and probably licked it off. He is having no symptoms yet. Should I just monitor him and see if he has any issues or get him to the vet?

Sept. 16, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. That small amount of Tiger Balm should not cause any toxicities. It may cause some GI upset, and it would be best to monitor him closely for any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite. If he shows any of those signs, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, although I do think that he will probably be okay.

Sept. 16, 2020

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Daisy

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Australian Shepherd (Standard, Toy or Miniature)

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8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Exposure

I used campho phenique on my 55lb Aussie. I took. Q tip and lightly applied it to a nickel sized hot spot on her leg about an hour ago. I feel like an idiot for not checking on it before hand. She’s hasn’t been trying to chew at the vet wrap, or acting funny at all. Is she gonna be fine? Or should I call the 911 clinic?

May 5, 2018

Daisy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

The information on Camphor toxicity is limited, but for the most part, problems occur when larger quantities are eaten. With the small amount that you applied, Daisy should not have any effects other than possible skin irritation. It would be a good idea to wash off the area with warm water, and monitor for any signs of irritation.

May 5, 2018

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Bubbas

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English Bulldog

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Seizures

Our dog had facial seizures 6 months ago and nothing since. Then a week ago I used lavender oil to get a smell out of the couch. An hour later he had 2 facial seizures at 12 in afternoon and then went to bed at 10 at night and he had a few grand mal seizures hours a part. We took him to the vet and they did blood work and found nothing wrong so they diagnosed him with idiopathic epilepsy. And now he is on medication for epilepsy. Could the seizures be caused from the lavender it was pretty strong but it didn't touch him. Or maybe the oils are a trigger to his epilepsy?

Aug. 30, 2017

Bubbas' Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Typically, lavender oils are used to calm dogs or to even to decrease the severity of a seizure; I couldn’t find any literature linking lavender oil to seizures but can not be ruled out unless tested. Try to keep essential oils away from Bubbas and try to think of other possible triggers to limit his exposure to them. I cannot really give you any further information I’m afraid. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVMwww.vetary.com/dog/condition/lavender-poisoning

Aug. 30, 2017

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RoseAnn

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Mutt

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7 Months

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None As Of Yet

My seven month old 12 pound puppy got ahold of a Vicks Container and licked abut a good table spoon of ointment from the jar before we could retrieve it from her. Should I be concerned?.. She appears to be acting as she.normally does.

July 26, 2017

RoseAnn's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Ingestion of camphor may cause vomiting and diarrhoea as well as seizures in cases of large ingestion. Symptoms of camphor poisoning usually present within five to ninety minutes after ingestion; keep a close eye on RoseAnn, but I would recommend calling the Pet Poison Helpline as they will have more in depth information about ingestion and the effects of camphor in that particular product (due to differences in concentration and medium). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVMwww.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/camphor/

July 26, 2017

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Dixie

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Maltipoo

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2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None. Diagnosed During Regular Check

My dog licked Kaz inhalant out of the top of a vaporizer. What should I do? She is a maltese and poodle mix and weighs about 9.5 pounds. The inhalent she licked does in fact include camphor, eucalyptus oil and etc.

July 26, 2017

Dixie's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Whilst camphor causes mild symptoms, eucalyptus oil may cause more serious symptoms including seizures. In most cases of poisoning, it is always best to visit your Veterinarian for preventative care; whether that is activated charcoal, inducing vomiting (not recommended in this case) or symptomatic therapy. Otherwise, keep an eye on Dixie and take her to her Veterinarian immediately should you notice any symptoms described on this page or on the link below. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVMhttps://www.vetary.com/dog/condition/eucalyptus-poisoning

July 26, 2017

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Camphor Topical Poisoning Average Cost

From 74 quotes ranging from $250 - $6,000

Average Cost

$1,000

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