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How to induce vomiting in dogs

We love our pet’s inquisitive nature, but sometimes their endearing curiosity lands them in trouble. Animals explore the world around them with their mouths, so before you know it, your beloved pet may eat something harmful. So, what’s a concerned pet owner to do? With no time to waste, you’ll have to act quickly. We’ll let you know when it’s safe to induce vomiting yourself, and when you should seek veterinary care instead.

Common toxins ingested by dogs

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center, the top 10 toxins pets ingest are:

  • Over-the-counter medications — Anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen), vitamins, cold and flu products, and antihistamines are common dangers.

  • Human prescription medications — Medications like pain relievers, antidepressants, and heart medications top the list. Ingestion is usually accidental, although owners sometimes dose pets with their own medications without understanding the potential consequences.

  • Toxic foods — Grapes, raisins, garlic, and onions are well-known and common offenders. Others are less well-known. For example, did you know that the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is added to sugar-free gums, candies, and even peanut butter, is a common toxin?

  • Chocolate — Chocolate is technically a food, but it is responsible for many toxicities and has earned its own category.

  • Veterinary medications — Flavorings added to veterinary products to make them easier to administer can make them so enticing that pets will sniff them out and eat the entire bottle.

  • Household products — Cleaning chemicals, paints, glues, and laundry detergents (including pod-type products) are common household toxins.

  • Rodenticides — Designed to attract and kill rodents, mouse and rat baits also allure dogs.

  • Insecticides — Pest products, like ant baits, that are sweetened to attract bugs also  tempt pets.

  • Plants — Lilies, azalea, oleander, and sago palm are included in the list of plants poisonous to pets.

  • Garden products — Fertilizers, herbicides, and decaying compost can also be tempting toxins for pets.

How do toxins cause toxicity?

Although some toxins cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset, most don’t cause serious harm until they leave the GI tract and are absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, they are distributed to the body’s tissues. The goal of decontamination is to remove the toxin from the body before it can be absorbed. If vomiting is induced before the toxin is absorbed in the intestines, toxicity can effectively be prevented.

Is inducing vomiting always a good idea?

Before you pull out the peroxide, consider what your dog has eaten and how much time has passed. You should always call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital for advice before inducing vomiting. Additional resources include the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764-7661.

Although vomiting will safely bring up most toxins, some will cause more damage by passing through the esophagus a second time than by moving through the GI tract. These include:

  • Caustic chemicals, such as bleach and other cleaning products, that can cause chemical burns to sensitive esophageal tissue

  • Petroleum-based products that can be aspirated into the lungs during vomiting

Ingested material stays in the stomach for about four hours before moving on to the small intestine. If it has been less than four hours (preferably less than one hour) since ingestion of the toxin, inducing vomiting may be successful; however, if it has been more than four hours, vomiting is less likely to help.

Other instances when vomiting is not a good idea:

  • Never induce vomiting in a dog that is unresponsive or unconscious.

  • Do not cause vomiting if your dog is having a seizure, as he will be unable to protect his airway and could aspirate material into the lungs or choke.

  • Don’t induce vomiting if your dog has recently had a seizure, as the stimulation of vomiting may cause another one.

  • It is not useful to cause vomiting in a dog that is already vomiting.

Seek veterinary help immediately if you believe your pet has ingested a toxin or if you are not comfortable inducing vomiting at home - ultimately, vomiting is not recommended.

How to induce vomiting

The only safe home substance that can induce vomiting is 3% hydrogen peroxide. Never use salt, syrup of ipecac, mustard, or other home remedies, and keep in mind there is no guarantee vomiting will remove the toxin.

To induce vomiting, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the peroxide has not expired, because it will only work if it’s bubbly. A fresh bottle will be most effective.

  2. Load the correct amount of hydrogen peroxide into an oral syringe or turkey baster.

  3. With your dog sitting or standing, pull back his upper lip and insert the end of the oral syringe or baster into the corner of the mouth.

  4. Hold your dog’s head upright and slowly push the hydrogen peroxide into his mouth. He should swallow the peroxide as it fills his mouth.

  5. After the entire amount has been given, walk your dog around the yard to encourage the peroxide’s bubbling action to irritate his stomach and cause vomiting.

  6. If your dog has not vomited after 15 minutes, give him a second dose of the same amount.

  7. If your dog does not vomit after two doses, take him to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian immediately.