Some breeds of dogs, and often younger puppies, seem magnetically drawn to sample the world with their mouth. Usually, the odd mouthful of grass or leaves, or even some leftovers on a walk is not concerning and will have little to no side effects. But, there are times when we see our beloved friends eat something they absolutely should not be eating, and we need to take action immediately.
When should I worry?
When out for a walk there are many toxic plants and mushrooms that can kill or seriously harm dogs. Walks also expose dogs to rotten or leftover food or bait laid out for pest control.
Equally in the home, there is also risk. Cleaning chemicals licked off the floor, dogs who have eaten toys or clothes from the washing pile, and automotive fluids are just a few of the dangerous substances dogs can come into contact with. Medications, both for humans and pets, are another common accidental ingestion that can occur in the home.
In these situations, we have a very short window of around one to three hours to make our dogs vomit. We want to make pets vomit because it removes a large part (but not all!) of the material from the stomach and intestines if action is taken quickly enough. By making your dog vomit, you reduce the chances of side effects in your dog.
Risks of inducing vomiting
Making your dog vomit may sound like an easy option to solve the problem. Unfortunately, inducing vomiting in your dog is not without risk.
Some items once eaten such as any objects that are sharp or have points can cause cuts or perforation to the esophagus on the way back up. If an object is too large or gets stuck in the esophagus it can result in your dog choking. If you are far away from the veterinary clinic when this happens, choking can be fatal in dogs.
Some chemicals can cause ulceration or damage to the lining of the stomach and esophagus if vomited back up.
When dogs vomit, if they accidentally inhale the vomit they can choke or the material can pass into the lungs and cause an infection in the chest. This is particularly true if the toxic or poisonous material eaten has a sedating effect such as prescription or recreational drugs.
This is why it is always recommended to talk to a veterinarian before making your dog vomit either at home or in the veterinary clinic. A full understanding of the procedure and the risks needs to be taken into consideration.
Depending on the substance eaten, your dog may need more treatment to overcome the side effects of the toxin eaten. These additional measures include oral activated charcoal to absorb toxins from the gastrointestinal tract or intravenous fluids and other supportive medications.
The use of hydrogen peroxide has been common for decades. Hydrogen peroxide is an acid that causes irritation to the lining of the stomach, Then the body starts the vomiting process to remove the acid and whatever else may be sitting in the stomach. It is not always successful in getting your pet to throw up, so people often try multiple doses, which can worsen the side effects. We no longer recommend its use as an agent to induce vomiting in dogs. Side effects include gastrointestinal irritation, bleeding, and ulceration of the sensitive mucosa of the stomach and intestines. This damage can take a long time to heal and needs medication to aid this process.
Washing soda crystals
Washing soda crystals are alkaline and its thought it causes irritation to the lining of the stomach and vomiting as a reaction to this. Side effects include ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract, bleeding, and inflammation. There have been reports of pets dying from the side effect of this home treatment.
Whilst a teaspoon of salt will usually be successful in making your dog sick, it comes with side effects too. If dogs eat too much salt, they can suffer from salt poisoning. Salt poisoning causes dehydration, vomiting, lethargy, weakness, and even seizures.
What is the safest treatment?
The best option for making your dog throw up is to go to a veterinarian. The veterinarian will be able to assess the material eaten and advise if making your dog sick is the right course of action.
If making your dog sick is the best course, medication will be given by injection. A veterinary technician will stay with your dog to watch the process. There are few side effects with the drug used (apomorphine) and these are usually behavior-related, so short-term and reversible with time.
My dog constantly tries to eat things on walks, what should I do?
Consider using a basket muzzle, so she cannot snatch items off the floor when out for a walk. You could also team up with a dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist who can help you work through this problem.
Should I take anything with me to the vet appointment?
Yes! Take any packaging or photos of the items eaten if you don’t know what they are. A sample of any plants, mushrooms, and fungi can help identify the species. If your dog vomits, again a sample or a photograph can be helpful.
My dog ate a poisonous substance more than three hours ago, what should I do?
There may still be a treatment at the vets that can be given to your pet to help reduce the effects of the poisonous substance. Some poisons take a long time to show effects in the body, so your pet may still be at risk.
If dogs accidentally eat something they shouldn’t, or something you know to be poisonous, the sooner you act on this information, the better it will be for your pet. Online vet services provide instant access to qualified and experienced veterinarians who will be able to identify materials, the nature of the toxin, and the next steps of action.