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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.

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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Activated Charcoal Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Maltese

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

Picked up the water dish to give chihuahua some he can’t jump off couch and noticed that there was a large bug in water I don’t know what kind but my 5lb Maltese had just drank water. Idk if I should give her charcoal capsule or if that’s not safe. She isn’t showing any symptoms it just happened Idk what kind bug it was my babies are in house spoiled babies I’m very worried.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I do not think that you need to worry about the water that your dog drank, other than just changing it to make sure the bug is gone. That should not cause any kind of toxicity or GI upset for her. I hope that everything goes well for both dogs.

Oct. 3, 2020

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yorkie cross

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5mnths

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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

Tarry Stool

my yorkie started throwing up and became less avtive the last 3days. since yesturday he dosnt want to eat but he drinks water. his stool has become black and tarry and he just lays around and makes a crying noise. he has been on antibiotics the past 3days with charcoal water and i have a rehydrate water

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 18, 2020

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Pitbull

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Two Years

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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

Acted Like Has To Poop But Doesnt

My dog ate rat poison yesterday and i gave her 3 activated charcoal capsules and i gave her 2more around midnight but she hasn't pooped

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 21, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Ten Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

N/A

My dog consumed grapes about 6 or 7 red seedless grapes I gave him activated charcoal in his water and a few teaspoons of peroxide 30 to 45min after consuming is it safe to wait until morning to go to vet?

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. Some dogs tolerate grapes, but others can develop kidney failure. If you are seeing any vomiting or diarrhea, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 22, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Almoat 6

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

My.dog ate a pretty good size pc of aluminum foil that had lemon bars on it..it is the cheap dollar store kind.. my vet is out until next week

Sept. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your dog is okay. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment that might be needed.

Oct. 24, 2020

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Peanut

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Dachshund

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My 2 year old 12lb dachshund ate 2 of my 220 Aleve pills while I was getting a glass of water. It’s been 9hrs since he ingested the pills. He isn’t showing any kind of problematic symptoms or discomfort. Still eating, drinking and urinating just fine. Either way I gave him some hydrogen peroxide as soon as I realized what he did. He hasn’t thrown up. I also have been giving him some activated charcoal with gatorade every 4hrs. I am terrified because I read the side effects of Aleve in a dog system can be fatal. I don’t know if I am in the clear or not. He is acting normal as of right now but I don’t know if that will change in the next 24hrs-48hrs. HELP!

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Wilmington

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chug

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Shivering

My dog may have gotten into some moldy cream cheese from the trash last night but if he did it wasn’t much. He weighs 20 lbs and has a history of digestive problems. Last night he began throwing up and he has 6 more times since. It usually happens after he eats or drinks water. He also was shivering really hard for about 30 seconds at one point I am not sure if it is related. Could activated charcoal be useful to him? If not, what can be other than rushing him to the vet?

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Rocco

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Poodle mix

dog-age-icon

9 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Listed Above

My 9 year old poodle mix is ingesting cigarette butts that he picks up on the sidewalks. We cannot find a way to stop this because he is so quick to get them and he has swallowed them before we can get them out of his mouth. Within an hour or so, he becomes uncoordinated and walks as if he is intoxicated, has head tremors, is disorientated, and his pupils shrink. This can last hours in the more severe cases.

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Lili

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Jack Russell Terrier

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7 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

NO PHONE CALL PLEASE!!!My 7 year old JRT female approx 15 lbs got about 10 laps of coffee (with cream and sugar not "creamer" and not artificial sweetener) - she really had to work at getting at the cup as it was out of reach - had to climb up on a chair to get at it. She vomited almost immediately. I am on the way to the store to get some activated charcoal. It is Sunday and the "emergency vet" in my area is definitely NOT a good place to take any animal not only they can't keep vets - revolving door and those leaving have bad stories to tell - but also hyperinflated charges. As in REALLY hyperinflated charges. Do you think it would be safe to wait for my regular vet clinic to open Monday (they open early around 7:30) I will give activated charcoal in the meantime.

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Cash

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Mini Aussiedoodle

dog-age-icon

7 Months

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

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Tired
Lack Of Appetite

My 7 month old puppy who weighs about 8 lbs ingested a small but unknown amount of raisins last night (hubby accidentally ripped a package of them as we were cooking). We couldn't get him to vomit at home so took him to a 24 hour vet. They induced vomiting and up came 6 raisins. Though we couldn't be sure he didn't eat more, it seemed unlikely as there was nothing left in his stomach. As a precaution we had them administer the charcoal. He seems mostly fine this morning but hasn't had much of an appetite and did bring up a very small amount of what he did eat about 10 min after ingesting it. Should I be worried? Is the lack of strong appetite this morning and the small amount of vomit to be expected when a puppy has undergone this treatment? It was all within the last 8-9 hours. Thanks!

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