Activated Charcoal for Dogs - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects
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Some of us might be aware that activated charcoal can be a good addition to any first aid kit. This is due to its adsorptive properties which can be useful in an emergency situation. Specifically, it works to prevent toxins from entering the dog's nervous system in the case of poisoning. It is increasingly touted as having many additional benefits. Some people use it as a supplement for themselves and consider using it for their dogs.
At AnimalWised, we look at activated charcoal for dogs, sometimes also known as activated carbon. In addition to discovering the uses, dosage and side effects of activated carbon, we find out if it is a supplement you should give your dog.
What is activated charcoal for dogs?
Also known as activated carbon, activated charcoal is form of carbon which has many uses. It is a product obtained from different materials, such as wood, almonds, coconut husks, palm trees, peat or mineral coal. It has many industrial uses, mainly as a form of filtration to refine various products and compounds. Although the outcomes and processes may be very different, the use of activated charcoal for dogs is also a kind of filtration.
Activated charcoal for dogs works by binding to toxic products. In doing so, it prevents the dog's body from absorbing them or at least reduces the amount. It is able to do this thanks to a process known as adsorption. To make activated charcoal, the carbon is processed so that it is given many pores which increase its surface area greatly. Molecules are adsorbed by the charcoal because they adhere to its surface. As they are adsorbed by the charcoal, it means they will not be absorbed by the dog.
For activated charcoal to work on toxins in the dog's body, direct contact between the carbon and the toxicant is necessary. This means the dog will need to ingest activated charcoal if they have swallowed something toxic. A single gram of activated charcoal is capable of absorbing 100 to 1000 mg of toxins. Its use is considered very safe, but it does not work as an antidote for all poisons. It is effectively when toxins enter the gastrointestinal tract.
Effectiveness of activated carbon will depend on the factors such as characteristics of the ingested substance or even the content of the dog's stomach. It must also be taken into account it is more effective the sooner it is administered. If sufficient time has passed and the poison has been absorbed, offering activated charcoal will no longer benefit the dog. It can be combined with other ingredients to benefit the digestive system.
Uses of activated cahrcoal for dogs
Although activated charcoal can be used for intoxication, it has other uses in dogs. It can be given to treat gastrointestinal upset. In cases of gas, diarrhea or other digestive problems, the carbon can protect the gastrointestinal wall and help facilitate digestion. Some evidence suggests it can prevent malodorous flatulence in dogs thanks to its ability to alter the production or availability of hydrogen sulfide in the large intestine. More conclusive studies need to be carried out.
For intoxication or poisoning in dogs, activated charcoal and be a great first aid treatment. If we discover our dog has ingested a toxic substance, we may be able to eliminate it by inducing vomiting in the dog. This is not something we recommend at home, so it is important you take them to an emergency veterinary center as soon as possible.
Activated charcoal can cause the dog to vomit, but this is not always the case. The main use is as described above, i.e. adsorbing the toxin molecules and preventing them from entering the dog's nervous system.
When NOT to use activated charcoal for dogs
Do not induce vomiting if the dog:
- Has swallowed cleaning or petroleum products
- Has already vomited.
- Are not fully conscious
- Presents respiratory difficulties or neurological damage.
Finally, it is important to note there are various activated charcoal products on the market. Not all are suitable for veterinary use, so ensure you read the label of any product before administering.
Can I give my dog activated charcoal supplements?
Although various studies have been carried out to test out the efficacy on intoxication, there is less information about activated charcoal as a supplement. This is especially the case in canine veterinary medicine. Some sources make bold claims about activated carbon providing such as improving kidney function and lowering cholesterol. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to back up these claims.
Moreover, giving activated charcoal to a dog can provide certain risks. Since it adsorbs various molecules, it is useful in preventing toxins from entering the dog's system. However, it can also do the same for certain nutrients which are found in food. This can cause deficiencies if given regularly, although we would have to give them a substantial amount.
Giving activated charcoal supplements to your dog likely won't cause them harm in small amounts. However, they are not likely to be beneficial unless they are used for a specific issue such as excessive gas in the dog. Even in these cases, activated charcoal may not be the best treatment option. Speak to your veterinarian before giving your dog any supplements.
How to administer activated charcoal for dogs
In cases of intoxication, it is important you go to a veterinarian as this is considered an emergency. In some cases, a vet will be inaccessible, so we should call a clinic for advice. Ideally, activated charcoal should only be given in the clinical environment. If this is not possible, the veterinarian should be able to give advice on administering it over the phone.
The activated charcoal for intoxication should come in a large syringe. To administer the dosage, we should:
- Out down towels as it can get messy.
- Ensure the dog is conscious and can swallow of their own accord.
- Set the nozzle of the syringe at the side of their mouth and push in a small amount so they have time to swallow.
- Keep their head level and do not tilt it far back as it increase the risk of aspiration.
- Insert the whole dose of activated charcoal incrementally until it is complete.
It is very important we do not give activated charcoal to a dog that has lost consciousness or is unable to swallow for whatever reason. This is because they can aspirate easily. We should also know that the dog's stools will be black in color for some bowel movements after activated charcoal treatment.
Activated charcoal for dogs dosage
Activated charcoal can be found in various preparations. Not all are suitable for dogs which are experiencing intoxication. The type of activated charcoal for dogs we can put in a canine first aid kit comes in a syringe. It usually contains additional ingredients such as sorbitol to act as a laxative. This helps the toxins to pass through the dog's digestive system more quickly.
The activated charcoal dosage should be given according to the veterinarian's instructions. However, a general guideline is 0.5–1.5 grams per pound of body weight (0.5–1.5 gm/lb). Activated charcoal tablets are sold in doses by milligram and are not suitable for this purpose.
Side effects of activated charcoal for dogs
Since activated charcoal for dogs is not absorbed or metabolized, adverse effects are rare. However, the administration itself can be dangerous. For this reason, we must be attentive to the following signs:
- Lack of coordination
- Mental or behavioral alterations
If we detect any of these signs, we must inform the vet immediately. As stated above, the dog's feces will change color to black for up to a few days. Take a look at our related article on the different types of dog feces to learn more.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to Activated Charcoal for Dogs - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects, we recommend you visit our Medicine category.
1. Giffard, C. J., Collins, S. B., Stoodley, N. C., Butterwick, R. F., & Batt, R. M. (2001). Administration of charcoal, Yucca schidigera, and zinc acetate to reduce malodorous flatulence in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 218(6), 892–896.