From dirty socks to plastic toys, puppies put nearly everything in their mouths. In fact, clueless puppies can chew up and swallow dangerous foreign objects or even—God forbid—poisonous toxins like antifreeze, poisonous houseplants, and forbidden people food. When your puppy eats something dangerous, inducing vomiting may be the first step in saving his life. Yet, not all situations warrant this drastic measure. For this reason, it's just as important to know when you should NOT induce vomiting as it is to know how to do it.
When to Induce Vomiting
It takes time for swallowed poisons to be fully absorbed into a puppy’s system. If he ate something like grapes (a toxic food for dogs) or swallowed a corrosive poison, it may be time to take action, but only if he is not showing symptoms. Some poisons cause symptoms in as little as twenty minutes after swallowing, or it could take a couple of hours or days for you to notice a problem. Still, the quicker you can get the toxin out of his digestive tract, the less that will be absorbed into his system.
Say he swallows a foreign object like a rock, toy, or holiday ornament and you get to him fast. Making him throw it up may be the best course to take, as the item won’t move from the tummy into the intestines right away, giving you time to rid the problem. And even if you don’t witness the dirty deed, but find suspicious evidence like a gnawed plant, chocolate candy wrappers, or an open bottle of pills, it may be a good idea to get him to purge.
When NOT to Induce Vomiting
Some swallowed objects and poisons are just as dangerous coming back up as they are going down. Sharp objects like pins, tacks, shards of glass or plastic, screws, needles, hooks from Christmas ornaments, or other pointy items can cut your pet's insides. Metal objects, such as coins, can cause zinc toxicity. And puppies that swallow a battery may develop lead poisoning if it's left inside him too long. Don’t wait for sharp, toxic items to pass through his system. A vet needs to surgically remove these culprits. Take your puppy to your emergency room immediately.
Other fluid-like items may cause burns or further damage if they come back up. Do not induce vomiting if he swallowed acids (like bleach or drain cleaner), alkali liquids (like ammonia or laundry detergent), motor oil or gas, paint or paint thinner, or any toxic houseplant. Instead place a call to your vet immediately.
How to Induce Vomiting
First and foremost, make a call to your vet. It’s always best to check with a professional before you induce vomiting. Then, if your vet says it's safe and your puppy is alert, it's go-time. You can induce vomiting in a puppy up to an hour after he ingests a foreign substance or object, but the sooner, the better. Do note, however, that it can be dangerous to induce vomiting if the pup acts dizzy, seems depressed, or falls unconscious. If this is the case, he can inhale the material on its way up and suffocate.
To induce vomiting, first, serve the poisoned pup a small amount of food. Remember, you’re not rewarding him for eating spilled paint thinner, but diluting the poison with food helps delay its absorption. For solid objects, food may also act as a padding and lube when the item comes back up. Plus, it can be tough to get a puppy to upchuck if his tummy is too empty.
Next, give your puppy 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with an eyedropper or plastic syringe (without a needle). A squirt gun or turkey baster also works well in this instance. The peroxide will tastes nasty and foam. This combination usually prompts him to vomit in about five minutes. You can repeat this dose two or three times, with five minutes in between each dose.
Syrup of Ipecac is another effective vomit inducer for dogs. Ipecac takes longer to work than hydrogen peroxide, though, and the dose should only be given once. Give one teaspoon for dogs less than 35 pounds and up to a tablespoon for larger dogs.
If you don't have hydrogen peroxide or Ipecac on hand, try giving your pup table salt one teaspoonful at a time for little pups or one tablespoonful at a time for adult-size pups. Salt prompts a dryness on the back of the puppy’s tongue, which can sometimes force him to purge. Repeat each dose in three minutes intervals if the first dose doesn’t work.
After your pet has emptied his stomach, call your vet. A vet may want you to bring him in, along with a sample of the vomit. A vet can analyze the poison and offer an antidote or other follow-up measures to be sure your puppy survives.
The best way to deal with problem poisons or dangerous items is to prevent the problem from happening in the first place. Place child-proof locks on cupboards, keep sweet candy and pills out of reach, and puppy proof holiday decorations to keep your baby dog safe.