If your dog has eaten a poisonous substance or dangerous object, your first instinct may be to make him vomit it up. But should you really induce vomiting after your dog ingests a toxin? The answer depends on what your dog ate and how long it has been.
Inducing vomiting is not always the correct method after the ingestion of a dangerous substance. In some cases, vomiting can cause very severe consequences, such as irreversible damage to the esophagus as the toxin passes through a second time.
Why It's Not Always Best to Induce Vomiting
Inducing vomiting is sometimes the fastest and most effective way to minimize the dangerous effects of a hazardous substance. Veterinarians generally recommend inducing vomiting soon after a dog eats a poisonous food like chocolate or raisins. However, there are situations where inducing vomiting can cause even more harm.
Certain toxins are extremely irritating to the GI tract and mucous membranes. Once mixed with stomach acids, they may even become more harmful. A caustic substance can further irritate the esophagus and mouth if it passes through them a second time. In these cases, it's best to let the toxin stay in the body and treat to prevent the absorption of the toxin.
If a dog eats an object that is sharp, jagged, or very large, vomiting the item can cause injury to the esophagus and mouth when it is forcibly pushed through the upper GI tract. In these cases, it's best to let the vet decide how to handle the foreign body. In some cases, it may pass on its own. In other cases, the dog with need surgery or endoscopy to remove the foreign body.
If a dog is very weak or is mentally unaware, it may not be able to protect its airway. Do not induce vomiting if your dog seems excessively weak or lethargic, or if it is displaying behavior changes. Vomiting with these symptoms carries a high risk of aspiration (the vomit going down the wrong tube) which can lead to pneumonia. Again, speak to a veterinary professional first.
You should never induce vomiting without first speaking with a veterinary professional. Begin by calling a veterinarian's office or an animal poison control hotline. You should have the package and a sample of the toxin with you during the phone call, if available. The quicker you can explain what your pet ate, the faster treatment can begin.
How and When to Induce Vomiting in Dogs
If your dog has eaten something dangerous, it is essential that you seek help immediately. Contact a veterinarian for advice before you consider inducing vomiting. After reaching a veterinary professional, he or she will advise you of the next steps.
If the recommendation is to induce vomiting, you will most likely be instructed to orally administer a measured amount of hydrogen peroxide. It is a good idea to keep a fresh (ideally unopened) bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your home at all times. Syringes may also be very useful for administering the solution by mouth. The recommended dosage will vary depending on the type of dog you have, your dog's size, and the present situation. Be sure to follow your vet's instructions for the amount and frequency of hydrogen peroxide doses. You may need to repeat the process once if your dog does not vomit and your vet says it's okay to do so. Hydrogen peroxide is irritating to the GI tract, so giving large amounts or repeating doses may not be recommended.
In some cases, you will be advised to follow up with your primary veterinarian in a day or two. However, in most cases, you will be told to go to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian right away.
If your dog has not begun vomiting promptly or if you think your dog did not vomit enough, just get to the nearest open vet office. The longer you wait, the more time the poison has to take effect. Veterinarians usually have a highly effective drug on hand to rapidly induce vomiting. Don't waste time!
If you cannot reach your veterinarian on the phone, or if your dog is already showing signs of toxicity, you should go to the nearest open veterinary facility right away. Many toxins are absorbed rapidly and require medical treatment, not simply the induction of vomiting. If you are not sure, play it safe and get to the vet.
Important Contact Information in Case of Poisoning
In case of toxin exposure, keep a list of important phone numbers in a visible, easily accessible location. Be sure pet sitters and other people who might be in your home are aware of the location of the list. The following contact information should be included:
- Your primary veterinarian
- One or more nearby 24-hour veterinary emergency clinics
- ASPCA Poison Control: (888) 426-4435 (a fee typically applies, but the service is free to Home Again subscribers)
- Pet Poison Hotline: 800-213-6680 (fee applies)
- An emergency contact number for you and your dog's co-owner (if applicable).