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Ask Amy Shojai: Poisonous Table Foo...
Ask Amy Shojai: Poisonous Table Food & How to Keep Pets Safe

As a part of National Pet Wellness Month, it seemed a good time to revisit the issue of vomiting. A dog vomits more easily than nearly any other creature. So why in the world would a pet parent want to make pets vomit? When dogs or cats eat the wrong thing that could cause harm, you can save your pets’ lives by inducing vomiting.

Pets vomit for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it’s because of illness, while other times the dog vomiting or cat hairball upchuck is more innocuous. Some pets eat grass to induce vomiting, or they get into dangerous candy that makes them sick. However, sometimes making pets vomit means life or death. That means you need to know how to make pets vomit.

With a new puppy in the house, we had to be better about puppy proofing. Shadow-Pup likes to play with cat toys–but they’re so small, they present a choking risk for big dogs like Bravo. When dogs swallow the wrong object, getting rid of it prevents more dangerous risks. Here’s how to make dogs vomit.

make pets vomit

Why You Should Make Pets Vomit

Most often we think of cat or dog vomiting as a bad, scary thing, but learning how to make your pet vomit could actually save his life. I’ve written about this before, but lately, I’ve had a number of messages from frantic pet owners along the lines of:

“HOLY SHITAKE! My dog just ate (raisins, Old Spice deodorant, chocolate, extension cord…) what do I do?”

Of course, a vet visit is needed, but pets seem to “indulge” in these activities after the clinic has closed. And frankly, sometimes you need first aid immediately to reduce potential problems or even death.

When Should You NOT Make Pets Vomit

There are cases where you should NOT make your pet vomit. Sharp objects need a vet’s attention immediately, and solutions like laundry detergent and drain cleaners, or petroleum products can burn coming back up just as much as going down. And it can become a choking danger with some poisons that cause swelling of the throat. Also, the stomach typically empties into the intestines in about 2 hours, and after that, vomiting won’t help.

man in white shirt holding a cat breed Don Sphynx on his hands. isolated on white. close-up

Small foreign objects may pass within 24-72 hours, and you need to examine the stool to be sure everything comes out all right. *ahem* With swallowed coins, though, do NOT wait for them to pass. The metal made to create coins, once hit with digestive juices, can cause copper or zinc toxicity–these items need surgical removal.

But for many toxic substances and non-sharp foreign objects, making them vomit can save pets’ lives. You can find more first aid help in my book, THE FIRST AID COMPANION FOR DOGS AND CATS, with advice from 70+ veterinarian ER specialists.

Veterinarians will tell you to call them first. In a perfect world, that’s exactly what you SHOULD do. There are times, though, when a veterinarian isn’t available and first aid is just that–FIRST aid, that saves the life of the pet until you can get professional help. Here’s what to do in those instances.

HOW TO MAKE PETS VOMIT

  1. Give him a meal. That dilute poison, delays its absorption, and for solid objects, may increase digestive juices to get rid of rough edges, or simply pad the object. It’s also harder to induce vomiting when the pet’s stomach is too empty.
  2. Give 3% hydrogen peroxide with an eyedropper, syringe without a needle or even a squirt gun or turkey baster. It tastes nasty and foams, and that combination usually prompts vomiting in about five minutes. You can repeat this dose two or three times, with five minutes between doses.
  3. You’d think cats would be easy to induce vomiting (they “whoops” regularly with hairballs, after all) but they can be tough. Don’t wait for kitties if they don’t empty their tummy after one dose. Get them help.
  4. Syrup of Ipecac is effective for dogs. Ipecac takes longer to work than hydrogen peroxide, though, and the dose should only be given once. Give one teaspoon for dogs less than 35 pounds, and up to a tablespoon for larger dogs. DO NOT give to cats.
  5. Call the veterinarian for further instructions after the pet has emptied his stomach. If you can’t induce vomiting after a couple of tries, prompt veterinary care is even more important. In cases of suspected poison, take a sample of the vomit with you to the veterinarian to analyze and offer an antidote or other follow-up measures.

Has your dog or cat ever eaten something they shouldn’t? What was it? And what happened? How did you prevent a repeat of the episode? Do tell!

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8 Comments

  1. Glogirly and Katie

    My Katie is the queen of wanting to eat things she shouldn’t. A 3′ piece of skinny pink ribbon when she was just 2 years old resulted in emergency surgery. Very traumatic, very scary and very expensive. I have to be diligent about keeping small enticing objects tucked safely away. Fortunately I’m very close to 24 hour emergency care, but knowing how to quickly induce vomiting is SO helpful. thank you!

    • Amy Shojai

      Prim and proper Katie does that? Hoo boy…those string-type objects are very dangerous.

  2. Susan C. Willett

    We’ve done the hydrogen peroxide thing. Also, when my dog Tucker chewed on a pool thermometer, the folks at ASPCA poison control told me to feed him bread to absorb stuff as well.
    –Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

    • Amy Shojai

      Yep, some specific items are helped with bread, some with milk or water. Very true! Glad Tucker was okay!

  3. Jana Rade

    Always have to think whether it’s going to cause more damage when coming back up. Once we had to make Cookie throw up when she found outside and ate something which might have been a brownie. While talking to a vet about the amount of chocolate for Cookie’s size she just springs the question if I’m sure it was not a pot brownie. Ugh. I wasn’t sure enough … Cookie did not enjoy that.

    • Amy Shojai

      Jana, exactly right. There are some kinds of ingested substances that are equally (or more) dangerous coming back up.

  4. Martha

    Oh where to start? Schipperkes are food-oriented. Our pair have eaten chocolate on more than one occasion. Mostly H2O2 worked. Once when we had a visiting dachshund & we had to give them both H2O2. Worst was when Wolfie (18 lbs) got hold of super dark chocolate and in the 15 minutes it took to get him to the vet his heart rate was well over 200.
    He also got into a visitor’s trash and consumed *six* tampons. We had no idea how many or how serious, and being July 4th, we hit the emergency vet. It took all day.
    The very worst was when we were in temp housing with wooden fencing. In 10 minutes, Emeril dug under it and escaped. He found what we believe was a large rodent poisoned by a neurotoxin. It’s a very long story, but it was nearly 24 hours before they could get his seizures to stop in order to operate to remove a quart ziplock of rodent and he was in a coma for 4 days and not expected to live, or might live but be severely brain damaged. Amazingly, he woke up and was fine. Expensive? Oh yeah, and worth every penny.

    • Amy Shojai

      Oh my goodness, you’ve had way too much experience with this! Hopefully, the gulping days are done, thanks for sharing your experiences!

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