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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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Labrador Retriever

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Yeast

Will Charcoal help with yeast?

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. Charcoal will not help with a yeast infection, if that is what you are asking? 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. 25, 2020

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Chihuahua

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Noisy Breathing

My 2 chihuahua mix (10lbs) ate 5 chocolate squares (0.35oz EA) that also contained caffeine (150mg EA) approximately 5-6 hrs ago. They have both vomited multiple times. One CHI seems fine the other is now breathing a bit loudly, and has a very distended tummy. He is also very restless and seems to be in some pain. Is there anything I can give him (maybe charcoal) to help him to feel better?

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello I recommend that you take your pets in to a veterinarian for an exam. Chocolate can be toxic to dogs and it is best if they receive care in a veterinary hospital rather than at home. Good luck.

Aug. 3, 2020

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Parsons jack russell (minature)

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Eaten Bird Fat Ball Containing Black Rapeseed

My 7yr old naughty jack has just found a fat ball left out for the birds which they must have knocked off the bird table. It contained black Rapeseed - which a google search said would be toxic. Within 20mins I have given a dose of activated charcoal which I had in store - should I take him for a stomach pump or will this work?

Aug. 1, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello, so sorry to hear about your dog. Activate charcoal is commonly used to treat these toxicities. This usually causes GI issues such as vomiting and diarrhea. As long as your dog is acting normal and eating he will be just fine. If you notice anything off with him, it would be best for your vet to check him out.

Aug. 1, 2020

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Lab mix

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

I had taken my dog to the emergency hospital, for eating dark chocolate. They had given him a charcoal treatment. He was sleeping constantly after coming home but now hes back to his more energetic self and has diarrhea. Im not sure if i should be worried since it was only a little but i know its one of the things to watch for. Should i take him back to the hospital?

July 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. That can be a normal sign after charcoal, and you can try feeding him a bland diet of boiled white chicken and boiled white rice for a few days to see if that clears it up. If he continues to have diarrhea, he should see your veterinarian, but that may help. I hope that all goes well for him!

July 27, 2020

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German Shepherd

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Diarrhea, Vomiting, Blood In Stool

I need help and closure, I took my dog to vet she was vomiting, bloody diarrhea, coughing, lethargy, and skin issues, she said it was ok to give it to her 2 times a day for two weeks we did and things got worse. I had to rush her to emergency vet. this was the only drug she was on. should they have known she was over dosed

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello I'm so sorry to hear about your pup. Apoquel is a good drug for skin issues. If it was causing her to be sick, then the medication should be discontinued at this time. Her symptoms could be due to other reasons such as an infection. Hopefully she is feeling better now.

July 24, 2020

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rosie

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Chiweenie

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Weakness

my dog rosie ate some fish that had garlic powder on it around 2p.m. I went to work, got off 5 hours later and i notice that she vomit twice, shaking, and bearly can walk. i gave her some activated charcoal about 12:50a.m. i didn't know garlic was bad for dogs. thinking about bring her to the vet. she had puppies that are a week old. is it bad for the puppies to breast feed?

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Loki

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American Staffordshire Terrier

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10 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Decreased Appetite
Tremors
Bloody Diarrhea
Swollen Belly

Hello, my dog has been experiencing vomiting and bloody diarrhea. This is the 5th day of it. After day 3 when we saw blood in the diarrhea we took him to the ER vet since it was after hours and the weekend. $810 later we have no answers. They prescribed an antibiotic and told us to feed him boiled chicken and rice. He still has the symptoms and it’s been almost 48 hours since his vet visit. They did Xrays, sonogram and blood work. The only thing they found was a slightly swollen liver and a slightly low RETIC-HGB of 20.0 pg. There was no resulting diagnosis. I am wondering if it might be beneficial to give him activated charcoal in case he was exposed to something or if that could be harmful since keeping him hydrated is of utmost importance. I am uncertain as to what to do now.

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Jaxson

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Labrador Retriever

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5 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

No Symptoms Yet

My 2 labs ate a 4 lb bag of Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer. Should I take them to the vet to have charcoal treatment? I have no idea how much was ingested but the bag was destroyed

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