Charcoal itself isn’t toxic when a dog eats it, but the chemicals it contains can be potentially fatal to dogs.
If you love to cook with a charcoal grill, use charcoal for composting or have charcoal around for its many other uses, your dog may want to investigate this flammable, black substance at some point. We pet parents always want to include our dogs in family events, like barbecues, but sometimes we get distracted and don’t keep an eye on our furry friends. That can be very dangerous for your canine pal.
This is why we should keep hazardous items away from dogs, especially when those items are used around food that may entice your pup to put something in his mouth that he shouldn’t. But what if your dog does manage to eat some charcoal? What should you do?
Here are a few facts about dogs and charcoal that every pet parent should know.
Is charcoal toxic to dogs?
First of all, charcoal itself is not toxic to dogs, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe either. Dr. Lauren Pastewka, Chief Veterinary Officer of Pet Paradise, advises, “Charcoal containing lighter fluid or other fire accelerants can be toxic and potentially fatal if consumed due to the petroleum products used.”
Also, coals that are still hot from use can cause further injuries to dogs. Dr. Pastewka says, “Hot charcoal can cause burns to a dog’s mouth and tongue, which are extremely painful and can lead to secondary wound infection. Additionally, the burns can cause the tongue and throat to swell leading to difficulty breathing.”
So, the danger your dog faces from eating charcoal depends a lot on the type of charcoal used, the amount, and whether it’s still hot. That said, you should still give your vet a call if your dog has eaten any charcoal, just to be safe. Dr. Pastewka says, “If you suspect your pet has consumed charcoal, determine which type of charcoal was present, monitor your pet closely for signs of illness, and contact your veterinarian immediately.”
Is activated charcoal safe for dogs
With all the dangers dogs face from eating charcoal, you may be wondering about a substance that can appear in certain dog treats known as “activated charcoal.” This is especially common in doggy dental treats, but vets may also use it to treat dogs when they’ve ingested something toxic.
Dr. Pastewka notes that activated charcoal differs from regular charcoal “in that it is purified further, resulting in a more porous material with a significantly higher surface area.” Activated charcoal “binds to toxins via a process called adsorption, which allows them to pass through the body without absorption into the bloodstream,” and that can be particularly useful in ridding a dog’s body of toxic substances.
Activated charcoal should not pose a danger to pets if it is consumed in safe, vet-approved amounts. Always follow guidelines when it comes to treats that contain the substance, and never administer activated charcoal to your dog without your vet’s guidance. If you see signs of stomach upset, vomiting, or diarrhea, stop giving your dog activated charcoal immediately.
Side effects for dogs who eat charcoal
The symptoms your dog can experience after eating charcoal can vary depending on which type they’ve eaten and the amount.
Symptoms may include:
- Upset stomach
- Mouth and throat sores or burns
- Skin irritation
- Head tremors
- Gastrointestinal obstruction
Dr. Pastewka notes, “Regular charcoal is indigestible and may cause irritation as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. Larger pieces have the potential to cause intestinal obstruction that would require surgery to remove.”
What should you do if your dog ate charcoal?
If your dog ate charcoal, contact your veterinarian. This is necessary if your dog ate any charcoal with fire accelerants or if they ate a large amount of charcoal. Your dog will need urgent care in these cases.
Information to tell your veterinarian:
- What symptoms, if any, your dog is showing
- What type of charcoal your dog ate
- How much charcoal your dog ate
- How big the pieces of charcoal may have been
- Whether the charcoal was still hot when your dog ate it
Dr. Pastewka says, “Your veterinarian will be able to offer specific guidance based on your individual pet’s history and type of charcoal involved.”
If your vet or an emergency vet isn’t available, you may want to call the ASPCA’s pet poison control hotline at (888) 426-4435. Note that you may be charged for the call.
Of course, the best way to keep your dog safe is to prevent him from coming into contact with charcoal in the first place. Always keep the substance out of your dog’s reach in the future. If you cook with charcoal, watch your dog carefully, dispose of charcoal properly, and store it away from snooping pooches.