Activated charcoal is the same type of charcoal that is used for filtering drinking water. Charcoal has a long history of use as a detoxifier and purifier of many things. Activated charcoal is often found in skin care products and facial masks because it has a cleansing and detoxifying, astringent quality.
For medicinal use, activated charcoal has long been used as well. Veterinarians have found that it is highly effective in treating animals who have accidentally ingested something poisonous. The charcoal surrounds the toxin in the stomach and absorbs it before it has a chance to be absorbed into the body. When used very quickly after a dog ingests a poisonous substance, it can be life-saving.
It is made-up of coal and wood, which most people are aware of, but coconut shells and peat can also be used to make activated carbon. These materials are burned at extremely high temperatures to create activated charcoal.
The Many Uses for Activated Charcoal
You may also hear activated charcoal referred to as ‘activated carbon’ and it has many other uses than those you may already know about.
- Gas – one charcoal tablet, crushed and added to water will help stop gas and flatulence in dogs. Mix enough water so that it isn’t thick and paste-like. Make sure that you only do this for three days. If gas persists longer than that, there could be something medically that is happening. You should consult your veterinarian if your dog has constant flatulence.
- Diarrhea – It will bind with the bacteria in the bowels that is causing the digestive disruptions and it will give quick relief. Most animals are relieved within hours.
- Bad Breath – Activated charcoal used as a toothpaste helps to rid pets of bad breath because it helps to rid the teeth of tartar and plaque build-up that can cause the issue of bad breath. If there is bacteria present, the charcoal can bind it up and eliminate it, taking bad breath with it.
- Itchy skin – Using some activated charcoal in the bath water will give them relief instantly. If it is possibly a bacterial skin problem, activated charcoal is one of the best ways to treat it. You can also give them some powdered charcoal orally for the issue if you like.
How Much Should You Use?
Typical dosage of activated charcoal is about 1-3 grams per each 2 pounds of body weight. If your dog has had an allergic skin reaction, the lower grams will likely be fine. The higher grams per 2 pounds would be recommended for a bad case of diarrhea.
If your dog has ingested poison, your veterinarian may recommend an even higher dose. Consult your veterinarian on this.
Veterinarians like to induce vomiting before administering activated charcoal since it works best on an empty stomach. That said, sometimes vomiting is not the best course of action depending on what was ingested. This should be left up to your veterinarian to decide.
When activated charcoal is given in the emergency vet clinic for poison, it is typically accompanied by administering sorbitol. Sorbitol acts like a laxative and will speed up the bound toxins to be eliminated with the charcoal faster.
Activated charcoal is possibly one of the safest things that you can ever give your dog. You do want to be sure that you don’t give it to them when are about to give them vitamins, supplements, or medications of other sorts.
The charcoal is likely to bind with them and render them useless. In the case of important medications, this would be very bad. In the case of vitamins, it would be a waste of time and money for you. Make sure you give them several hours before using the charcoal or several hours after.
If you use granule types of activated charcoal, you can create an oral suspension. The typical ratio is one level cup of charcoal granules to six level cups of water. Two to four grams of this suspension per each two pounds of body weight is the recommended dosage.
How well activated charcoal works is directly related to how quickly it is administered from the time of ingestion of the toxin. The industry standard has become known as one hour – ideally, you want to give activated charcoal within one hour of the toxin being swallowed. This gives maximum benefit.
Some holistic veterinary practices are using activated charcoal to help treat the parvovirus. It is being recommended for clients to dose their dogs at home until the virus has passed. The idea is that the charcoal will bind the virus and move it out of the system of the animal.
This may seem like a great solution, but you are only supposed to treat with activated charcoal for three times and the holistic method is recommending that owners dose their dogs every fifteen minutes, 10 milligrams at a time, or mixed with water and given every four hours. More than three doses is simply not recommended.
There are good medications for parvo and you should see a veterinarian right away if you suspect that your dog may have it. Parvo is life-threatening and can become very serious quickly.
There really are no serious risks from using activated charcoal. This is why veterinarians have used if for so many years. It is a tried and true method for removing toxins.
Now You Know
You’ve learned that activated charcoal can be used to treat skin conditions by bathing your dog with it. You’ve learned that you shouldn’t use it to try to treat parvo at home either.
Hopefully, you’ve also come to learn that activated charcoal shouldn’t be given without consulting your veterinarian FIRST for anything other than simple diarrhea. Your veterinarian may want to induce vomiting in your dog first and it depends largely upon what has been ingested.
Your veterinarian may not recommend using charcoal if the poison is known.
There may be a specific medication for treatment that works best and by giving charcoal, you’ll have caused the window to close on how soon the medication can be administered – you’ll now have to wait as long as 4 hours and this can have a very negative effect, even causing death. So, definitely consult your veterinarian before giving activated charcoal and be sure to have it in the house at all times. If the veterinarian recommends it as quickly as possibly, you’ll have it ready to go.
You have learned that activated charcoal comes in pills and granules. Pills are crushed and granules are added to water to make suspension liquids. Activated charcoal is one of the safest things that can be given to your dog for diarrhea and 1 to 3 grams for every 2 pounds they weigh is a safe dose.
Take Preventative Measures
Go around your home, inside and outside, and check carefully for anything that could be poisonous to your dog. Garages and storage sheds are notorious for chemicals such as swimming pool chemicals, motor oils, antifreeze (which dogs are attracted to the smell and taste of) and many other things.
Some dogs will even swallow things like small nails and caulk. Don’t take chances. Lock things up, place items in containers with sealed lids that screw down so that dogs can’t get into them. Lock things in cabinets that they can’t get to and know that prevention is the best course of action to help you never need to use activated charcoal.
Keep the animal poison control phone number on your refrigerator, along with the phone number to your veterinarian, and the phone number for the nearest after hours veterinary emergency clinic. Know the directions and addresses to both clinics so you can find them in a hurry. Be prepared and it may save your furry pal’s life.
Dawn Greer is a passionate blogger and animal rights activist. She is a pet lover, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, pet nutritionist, and former veterinary technician. She continues her work while writing blogs for pet lovers around the globe.