By: Dr. Juli, DVM @itsDrJuli
Pet owners who share a home with a four-legged Hoover vacuum may benefit from clean floors and empty plates. Like people, some dogs may seem to have an iron stomach and can or will eat anything or everything within paws' reach without problems. However, your dog's curious and investigative nature can be dangerous and could lead them to ingest toxic ingredients or dangerous objects, including sharp objects, like sewing needles. Dogs are naturally curious scavengers and explore the world with their paws, noses, and tongues. So, it is not uncommon for them to eat something toxic or dangerous to their overall wellbeing. In some cases, toxic ingredients can be life-threatening or cause long-term medical problems. Pet owners naturally want to immediately remove a toxin or dangerous object, and making your dog throw up is a common method to correct accidental toxin ingestion. However, never induce vomiting in your dog without consulting a veterinary professional. In some cases, vomiting can be dangerous for your dog and cause more problems.
The danger zone: when NOT to make your dog throw up
The stress of realizing your dog has ingested something toxic or dangerous can be overwhelming for pet parents, and they naturally want to immediately remove the danger from their beloved four-legged family member. However, there are several situations when inducing vomiting is dangerous and can be life-threatening for your dog. Never induce vomiting in the following situations:
- Your dog has ingested a caustic or corrosive object or toxin, including bleach, batteries, cleaning products, or detergents.
- Your dog has ingested a sharp object(s), including needles, razor blades, knives, or large bones.
- Your dog has ingested a petroleum or oil-based product, including gasoline, kerosene, or cooking oil.
- Your dog is a brachycephalic breed including pugs, bulldogs, shih tzus, French bulldogs, and Pekingese. These dog breeds have an increased risk for aspiration pneumonia when vomiting.
- Your dog has undergone a recent abdominal surgery.
- Your dog has been diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis or megaesophagus.
- Your dog is showing signs of toxicity, including seizures, hyperactivity, increased heart rate, lethargy, or collapse.
- Your dog ingested a dangerous item more than two hours ago.
The safe zone: common reasons TO make your dog throw up
Inducing vomiting can save your pet’s life, especially in cases when it is not possible to quickly reach your veterinarian. If your dog has ingested something dangerous within the last two hours, making them throw up at home may be a good option. Many common human foods and objects can be toxic to pets and lead to gastrointestinal problems, like pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening inflammatory condition of the pancreas. Vomiting can prevent further absorption of toxic ingredients that may affect your pet’s health. Common pet toxins that can be removed by making your dog throw up may include:
- Sugar-free foods, certain peanut butters, or dental care products that contain xylitol
- Onions, garlic, or chives
- Grapes and/or raisins
- Human anti-inflammatory medications
- Toxic plants, like marijuana
Dog first aid: what to include in your dog’s “throw up” kit
Most dog owners have a human first aid kit available, but making a dog-specific kit can be helpful to ensure you are always prepared for pet mishaps. Pre-made pet first aid kits are available, or you can assemble your own kit using the checklist here. However, ensure to include the following in your dog’s “throw up” kit:
- Fresh, non-expired 3% hydrogen peroxide (higher concentrations can be dangerous to dogs, and expired peroxide may not work)
- Syringe (without a needle), or turkey baster
- Measuring spoon
- Gloves, plastic bag, cleaning supplies
- Contact numbers for your veterinarian
Commercially available 3% hydrogen peroxide is the only safe over-the-counter way to induce vomiting in your dog. It works quickly and acts locally to irritate your dog’s stomach lining and cause vomiting. In most cases, your dog will vomit within 10 minutes or 15 minutes following administration. Ensure that the peroxide is not expired, and never use a concentration more than 3%. Never use the following to induce vomiting in your dog: salt, alcohol, ipecac, or olive oil. Additionally, never attempt to make your dog throw up by sticking your finger down your dog’s throat to prevent injury to you or your pet.
How to induce vomiting guide: Steps to make your dog throw up
If you suspect your dog has ingested something dangerous, immediately call your veterinarian. However, if it is after hours, call one of the following: the closest emergency veterinary hospital, the ASPCA animal poison control center (APCC), or the Pet Poison Helpline. Once your veterinarian has advised you to induce vomiting, take the following steps:
- Feed your dog a small meal if they have not eaten in the last two hours (a fuller stomach will increase the chances of a successful vomiting event)
- Fill a turkey baster or syringe with ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight. For example, a 50-pound dog should receive approximately 5 teaspoons (25 mls) of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Never give your dog more than 45 ml or 3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide.
- Gently pull back your dog's lips on the side of their mouth, between the back teeth, and slowly squirt in the peroxide. It can also be administered at the front of your dog’s mouth, but go slowly to prevent them from inhaling the peroxide into their lungs. Foaming at the mouth is normal.
- Wait 15 to 20 minutes and closely monitor your dog. If they appear to be smiling, it’s a good indication that they are nauseous and will soon throw up.
- If no vomiting has occurred after 15 minutes, a second dose can be given, ensuring not to exceed 3 tablespoons total volume of the hydrogen peroxide solution.
- Carefully monitor your dog for vomiting, and do not let them reingest their vomit.
- Collect the vomit for your DVM to confirm the toxic substance or object has been removed.
- Monitor your dog for any complications, including vomiting for more than 45 minutes, diarrhea, lethargy, or bloat. These complications require immediate veterinary care.
- If your dog has not vomited after two doses of hydrogen peroxide, bring them to your veterinarian. In some cases, they will need to administer prescription medication, like apomorphine, to safely make your dog throw up. Additional medical care may also be required.
Before and after care: Prevention and recovery after your dog throws up
Dog-proofing your home and keeping all chemicals, human foods, and medications out of paws' reach is the best way to prevent ingestion of a dangerous food or object. Additionally, providing your dog exercise, proper nutrition, and enrichment toys, like a treat-filled Kong, will help decrease the chances of them acting out by ingesting dangerous objects or foods out of boredom. In some cases, your dog may also develop gastrointestinal (GI) problems, like diarrhea, following accidental toxin ingestion. Consider adding Native Pet’s Probiotic supplement to support your dog’s gut flora and GI tract during their recovery from diarrhea or vomiting. Always consult your veterinarian when your dog's health is compromised for any reason.