Dog Eating Charcoal: if your dog ingested charcoal and is throwing up, you may wondering if charcoal is toxic to dogs. You may have heard about using charcoal for cases where a dog has ingested something potentially toxic so to lower absorption, but the charcoal used for that purpose is a far cry from the type you use for grilling.
Charcoal used for toxicity is known as activated charcoal and it's a fine powder made to be administered orally after mixing. The charcoal used for grilling is too large, may be covered in fat drippings and it often has lighter fluid added, which makes it problematic.
Effects on Dog Stomach
Charcoal per se' isn't particularly toxic, but it can very upsetting to the dog's stomach explains the Pet Poison Helpline. The associated upset stomach symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Additionally, the fact that charcoal comes in big chunks, there's the possibility for a blockage. If your dog has ingested charcoal and has vomited afterward, hopefully he has brought up the majority of it. According to the ASPCA, unused, charcoal briquettes with no added lighter fluid are classified as low toxicity, meaning that they may cause gastrointestinal upset, but not so serious unless very large amounts are ingested. As mentioned, an issue is when lighter fluid is added to the charcoal.
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Effects on Pancreas
If the dog ate charcoal and along with it the greasy, fat drippings from the grilled meat, the dog may develop a bout of pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas. Not all dogs are prone to pancreatitis after eating something fat, but those who do develop serious symptoms such as severe vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and sometimes fever. Pancreatitis, left untreated, can become life threatening.
Effects on the Kidneys
According to the ASPCA, charcoal lighter fluids are classified as mildly toxic, meaning that they can cause significant symptoms that go beyond mild gastrointestinal upset. Quick-lighting charcoal is a concern when a dog ingests charcoal as these are saturated with petroleum distillates. Even if the fluid was burned off after grilling, in large enough amounts it has the potential to cause kidney failure which will trigger increased drinking and increased urination, explains veterinarian Dr. Jessica. Dogs can be checked for kidney damage through a blood test and urinalysis. Affected dogs will need intravenous fluid therapy.
What to do if a dog ingested charcoal? It depends on the amount consumed and whether it was plain charcoal or treated charcoal, if it was chewed or if it was full of greasy drippings. Generally, for the ingestion of small amounts of plain charcoal that was chewed and not swallowed whole or in large chunks and with no fat drippings or lighter fluids, a dog upset stomach fasting followed by a bland diet may help. Veterinarian Dr. Scott suggests also giving dogs over the counter Pepcid AC or Pepto bismol for dog upset stomach. See your vet though if your dog is lethargic, not getting any better and showing other symptoms.