Inducing Vomiting in Dogs and Cats: Rules and Risks

Pets sometimes eat things they shouldn’t – potential toxins or things that may cause blockage. If you believe or know for sure your pet has eaten something dangerous, call your veterinarian immediately.

Veterinarians will explain the rules and risks before deciding if vomiting will help or hurt the situation.

Vomiting at Home: How Hydrogen Peroxide Works

The most common DIY method uses 3% hydrogen peroxide, given orally (usually 1 teaspoon per 5-10 pounds of a pet’s body weight). Hydrogen peroxide typically induces vomiting within 15 minutes, if it is going to work.

Feeding a small moist meal before giving the peroxide helps. Think of it as ballast to bring up more material. Some veterinarians also recommend mixing the hydrogen peroxide with water.

Before you take on the task yourself, follow these rules because sometimes making your pet vomit is the last thing you want to do. Even if your pet does vomit for you, the emergency may not be over.

Rules for Inducing Vomiting in Pets at Home

  • Never induce vomiting without the consent and instruction of your veterinarian.
  • Never induce vomiting if the pet has consumed caustic materials such as bleach, drain cleaner, acids, or petroleum products. Vomiting can lead to chemical burns and possible breathing of the caustic material into the lungs (aspiration).
  • Never induce vomiting in a pet who is already vomiting.
  • Never induce vomiting if your pet is unconscious, weak, having trouble standing or walking, or showing other symptoms.
  • Never give more than two doses of hydrogen peroxide, and never exceed 3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide.
  • Don’t induce vomiting if it has been more than two-three hours since suspected or known ingestion.
  • Never induce vomiting at home in pets with a history of seizures, other neurological conditions, heart conditions, recent abdominal surgery, or bloat.
  • Don’t induce vomiting in pets with short-noses (brachycephalic) because of a risk of aspiration.

Risk of Inducing Vomiting in Pets at Home

  • Pets can choke or aspirate while vomiting, especially those with short noses or those who are weak.
  • Rarely, susceptible pets can develop peroxide-induced brain inflammation, causing collapse and inability to walk after ingesting hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting.

Veterinary Treatment – Other Vomiting Options

Generally, inducing vomiting only clears the stomach of 40-60% of its contents. That may or may not be enough to avert an emergency for your pet. You may still need to take your pet to the ER.

For example, if your pet has eaten a non-food item that can cause a blockage but the pet doesn’t vomit at home, your veterinarian may have you come in immediately so that the veterinary staff can administer other vomit-inducing medications:

  • For dogs, typically apomorphine hydrochloride
  • For cats, typically xylazine

Even if vomiting isn’t the treatment required, at least your pet will be at the veterinary hospital with experts who can help.

References

ASPCA Poison Control Center

Hydrogen Peroxide Induced Encephalopathy, Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado

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