What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a medication often used in dogs to treat intoxication. The goal of activated charcoal is to absorb the toxin that the dog has ingested to lessen its adverse effects. Activated charcoal is a commonly used treatment and is often the first line of treatment for certain intoxications. This treatment can be administered by your primary care veterinarian or an ER veterinarian for emergencies that occur after hours.

Book First Walk Free!

Activated Charcoal Procedure in Dogs

Administration of activated charcoal depends on the severity of your dog’s clinical signs. If your dog is exhibiting no clinical signs or symptoms, activated charcoal is added to water for your dog to drink. For dogs with moderate to severe symptoms, activated charcoal is given through an orogastric tube with a cuffed endotracheal tube in place to prevent aspiration. If the toxin is known, and known to be processed in the liver, treatment with activated charcoal may need to be repeated every 4-8 hours for several days. Ideally, activated charcoal is administered within an hour of toxin ingestion, however, there may be benefits to activated charcoal even outside of this time frame. 

Efficacy of Activated Charcoal in Dogs

Activated charcoal is an effective adsorbent of many toxins and can significantly decrease the amount of toxin released into the bloodstream. Activated charcoal is most effective when administered within an hour of exposure to toxins. Treatment with activated charcoal is permanent, as once the toxin is bound to the charcoal it does not get released. Alternate treatment in the case of toxin ingestion include gastric emptying/lavage, cathartics, and dilution with milk or water in combination with a stomach coating agent. These alternative treatments may be used alone or in combination with activated charcoal. The efficacy of the other treatments depends on the toxin that you are trying to treat. For example, gastric emptying (via inducing vomiting) would be counter indicated in the case of a corrosive toxin due to the damage of the esophagus that would occur. 

Activated Charcoal Recovery in Dogs

Recovery from the toxin could occur within hours or take several days depending on the toxin ingested. Your veterinarian may schedule a follow up visit for cases of toxin ingestion that have damaged the liver or kidneys or caused an anemia. There is no ongoing maintenance for activated charcoal administration. 

Cost of Activated Charcoal in Dogs

Activated charcoal is a relatively cost-efficient treatment and is not an expensive agent itself (costing between $5-$20). However, treatment of the various toxins that activated charcoal can treat may involve other medications and procedures, making the overall cost of toxin treatment more expensive. Treatment of toxin ingestion involving activated charcoal can range from $500-$3,000, depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms and the cost of living in your area. 

Dog Activated Charcoal Considerations

The main risks of activated charcoal treatment are aspiration and vomiting. Activated charcoal has also been associated with increased sodium blood levels in small dogs. The benefit of activated charcoal is that it works for a wide variety of toxins and can be beneficial as a treatment even before the cause of toxicity is known. Activated charcoal does not work for every toxin, however, and is contraindicated for the following toxins: alcohol, ferrous sulfate, caustic alkalis, nitrates, petroleum distillates or mineral acids. 

Activated Charcoal Prevention in Dogs

Prevention of intoxication that warrants activated charcoal treatment involves preventing your dog from having access to substances that are toxic to them. Foods such as chocolate should be kept out of your dog’s reach. Medicines should be properly sealed with their child safety caps and stored in a cabinet away from your dog. If you are using rat poison, ensure that it is stored in a place that your dog cannot access it, or purchase enclosed rat traps that have the poison accessible to rats but not larger animals. Understanding what substances may be harmful to your dog is essential to make sure that you are keeping them out of harm’s way. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about household items, plants, and foods that may be toxic to your dog.

Activated Charcoal Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Drake
Labrador Retriever
9 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Fluid in abdomen
Cirrhosis of the liver

My dog was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. I was told it could be a couple of weeks or a couple of days. It's been a little over two weeks since. I have him on milk thistle tables daily. The vet said he could start having seizures and the toxins would eventually make their way to his brain. I was wondering if it would hurt to start giving him activated charcoal to absorb some of the toxins?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
991 Recommendations

Activated charcoal is used to absorb toxins or poisons in the gastrointestinal tract, there is no scientific evidence showing that activated charcoal removes toxins from the blood; the charcoal doesn’t live the gastrointestinal tract. In saying that, giving activated charcoal will do no harm at all and may be giving without fear of side effects. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Add a comment to Drake's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Rem
Shih Tzu
1 Year
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Stumbles

My dog has had some weed very little but enough where she has a little side effects, I wanted to give her some activated charcoal? Don't think she needs to go to the vet but I just want to make her feel better any suggestions

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
991 Recommendations

Induce vomiting with 3% hydrogen peroxide and then administer activated charcoal, but if there are severe symptoms you should visit your Veterinarian for supportive and symptomatic care. Symptoms of poisoning with weed, can lead to severe neurological signs and may require Veterinary care. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Add a comment to Rem 's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Ju ju, toby, nelly
Boxer
3,1,4
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

None

Medication Used

Charcoal and hydrogen peroxide

I have 3 dogs two little ones that are like 10 pounds a piece and one boxer is probably like 40 pounds. we had just bought a box of rat poison the that contained 16 blocks came home one day and they had eaten six of the blocks not sure who ate how much but we know they all 8 it's cuz all their teeth were green. I mixed some hydrogen peroxide and ice cream the boxer ate a good amount the two little ones only had tiny bit then I gave each of them a activated charcoal pill it has been 30 minutes at least and none of them are puking what do I do now. also is anything that happens next going to be painful for them

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
991 Recommendations

The type of poison (anticoagulant or neurotoxin), quantity consumed and time frame; with rat poisoning, a visit to your Veterinarian is a must for gastric lavage and supportive care. Administration of hydrogen peroxide is a good first aid step, but ice cream isn’t the best method of administration as some ice creams may have artificial sweeteners which are also toxic for dogs. Please visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Add a comment to Ju ju, toby, nelly's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Bentley
Cockapoo
4 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My pup ate a Rx insomnia medication. He had around 42mg of Lunesta yesterday while I was at work. We spent the night at the ER vet where they induced vomiting and then gave him activated charcoal and some other meds We left the vet about 14 hours ago and he's still throwing up charcoal. He will eat but isn't really interested in drinking. How long should it take for the charcoal to get out of his body and stop puking?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
991 Recommendations

There is little information about the ingestion of Lunesta (eszopiclone) in dogs and there is little information of side effects or the level of toxicity of ingestion. If you have any concerns, I would recommend you contact the Pet Poison Helpline as they have more information and are able to help you more with this poisoning event (see link below). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/lunesta/

 

Add a comment to Bentley's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Cooper
Labrador Retriever
12 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

Medication Used

Tramadol

My dog had some broccoli. I made sure it wasn't more than 10% in his bowl but I just saw him eat it out of his brothers. He may have been doing that for the last couple days. He has diarrhea now for about 10 hours. It's now all liquid. He gets colitis easily. There was a tiny drop of blood the last time. Otherwise, he is eating well (we can't withhold all food due to his meds but switched him to white rice and chicken with chicken bone broth to keep him hydrated). We just spent 15k w don't have on removing oral melanoma, so I can't run him to the vet like I normally would. It is goes past 24 hours I definitely would to get him hydrated and on flagyl which clears up his colitis. Does the diarrhea alone mean he could be having a fatal reaction? Should me withdrawing the broccoli and putting him on rice and pumpkin help or does he need a treatment at the vet to get this to stop once it starts?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
991 Recommendations

As you know broccoli is healthy to feed to dogs, but it may cause gastrointestinal irritation if feed at doses over 10% of daily food intake and can be serious if feed at over 25% of daily food intake. You made a good move by switching his food to chicken and rice with broth and this will be less irritating to his stomach and he would require hydration. I would watch him over the next few days, but if you start to notice more symptoms or the blood remains in the faeces, a visit to your Veterinarian may be needed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

How about a corn cob? Our pup ate one a couple days ago and has vomited 3 times today along with being somewhat lethargic. We know corn is not a large concern but are worried about the whole cob both about the potential blockage and any kind of toxicity there may be. Any suggestions?

Add a comment to Cooper's experience

Was this experience helpful?