Can I give my Dog Activated Charcoal? Diarrhea, Allergies Concerns

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2020)

If there’s something wrong with your pup, you may have heard your vet discuss using activated charcoal.

Your mind is already filled with questions about the health of your pooch, and now you’ve got even more questions on what activated charcoal is, how it works, and if it’s really safe when it comes to detoxifying your dog.

Read on to learn more about what sort of treatment activated charcoal is and why its been known to be so helpful for dogs who are dealing with toxins.

How is activated charcoal generated?

Basically, the process of making activated charcoal involves using steam. A form of oxidized steam is applied to the charcoal in high temperatures, which has oxygen, vapors, and acids. The steam will remove all volatile compounds while layers or carbon atoms are peeled off. This provides the charcoal with fine pores so that it can absorb easily.

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Wide Surface Area

When you pick up a piece of activated charcoal then, you’ll see that it has a good-sized surface area. This is what allows the activated charcoal to be used in a wide variety of venues, including with your dog to absorb toxins, or in holes or tunnels for water purification.

Because of its large size, the activated charcoal will absorb toxins that may be impacting your dog. This includes insecticides they accidentally ingested or anything else they’ve gotten themselves into.

Industrial Technology

Very high temperatures are needed to activate the charcoal so that it can be used to absorb toxins. This means that most people are unable to create the charcoal on their own. Since the cost of production is pretty high too, it’s best just to buy activated charcoal on the market instead of trying to make it for yourself.

Even if you try to activate it using chemicals, it’ll be difficult to get those kinds of materials on your own.

Can I give activated Charcoal to my dog?

Activated charcoal is actually very commonly used on dogs who have ingested some form of toxin. This can be anything, from some kind of floor cleaner to human medicine that they swallowed accidentally.

It works very well in cases of acute poisoning to absorb the toxins that are in the upper gastrointestinal track of your dog. The charcoal will bond with the toxins to reduce the presence of toxins in your dog’s bloodstream. 

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It’s important not to overdo the usage of activated charcoal though. Only use it when the situation calls for it, and don’t give it to your dog if there’s nothing wrong.

Keep in mind that the charcoal will work better the quicker you give it to your dog after they’ve ingested the poison, and that its effectiveness will depend on how well the charcoal can bond with the toxin your pooch has ingested.

In the end though, activated charcoal is a great way for you to help your pup quickly when the time is critical. This is why many owners keep a supply on hand for emergency situations, since having it can mean the difference between life and death.

The FDA has approved its usage in dogs even though it cannot be used for humans. In the case of poisoning, always be sure to go to your vet and give them a call before you provide your dog with activated charcoal.

There are certain conditions that activated charcoal won’t help, like if your dog has ingested caustic products, or anything with ethanol, methanol, and many other chemicals.

Always call your vet or the pet poison helpline before you do anything else. Activated charcoal is a good option in the case of an emergency. While it’s safe to give dogs, it may not be helpful for everything.

How does activated charcoal work?

You’ll want to know exactly what you’re giving to your dog before you administer it. Of course, you need to understand how it works too. When you give activated charcoal to your dog, it may look similar to the charcoal you’re used to seeing on your grill, but it’s definitely not.

Activated charcoal is pure carbon that’s been activated so it results in a fine black powder. This structure is what helps the charcoal work so effectively when you give your pooch a pill.

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Surface Area

You already know that activated charcoal has a wide surface area thanks to the powdered form. It goes into your dog’s system and instead of staying in one place, spreads out to handle the toxin.

They’ll bind to the toxin and keep it contained, allowing your dog to expel the toxin via normal bowel movements.

Rapid Absorption

The activated charcoal will work to grab onto the toxins, and will hold onto those toxins quickly. In a short amount of time, they should have halted the toxins. In about half a day, the level of toxins should be dropped by around half.

Uses of Activated Charcoal

Detoxing is the biggest reason why people give activated charcoal to their dogs. It absorbs those toxins to give you some time before a vet can get to your pet to be sure that their health improves. It can be used in less serious cases too, like food poisoning.

This includes digestion as well, and can help situations like diarrhea. Be sure to consult your vet before you start giving them this treatment though, and check to see if there are any other options.

You can also brush your dog’s teeth with activated charcoal to whiten them. It changes the pH levels of the mouth to brighten the teeth and improve their overall oral health. They’re great for your dog’s skin too.

Again, be sure to talk with your vet before you apply activated charcoal widely, even in emergency situations. It can be a lifesaver if something goes wrong. But it can also be dangerous if you give your pooch too much or if it’s ineffective on the specific toxin your dog has ingested.

How to give Activated charcoal to your dog

Activated charcoal is available in a few forms, including powder and tablet forms. People usually administer it orally, sometimes using water and with a syringe. When your dog is unwilling to ingest it, your vet may have to use a stomach tube in order for it to begin clearing your dog’s system or toxins.

At Home

Before giving activated charcoal to your dog, see if you can induce vomiting to clear out any poison. The charcoal will handle the rest. Your dog needs to be able to swallow though. If they are able to swallow, you can slip the pill or granules into your dog’s food. Some dogs will still eat it. Other dogs won’t feel well enough to eat.

Veterinary Hospital

If you can’t get your dog to ingest the activated charcoal yourself, that’s where a veterinary hospital comes in. They’ll be able to give some charcoal orally, slowly via a syringe in the mouth. They can also use a stomach tube much more effectively than you can to keep your dog safe until they expel the toxin via their stool.

Your dog’s stool will be black whether or not you give them the charcoal on your own or in the hospital. It’s nothing to be concerned about, and is completely normal as your dog expels both the charcoal and the toxin.

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Can activated charcoal be ineffective?

Activated charcoal is a great option for dogs who are dealing with toxins. That doesn’t mean that it’s effective in removing every type of poison though. You know of a few of the poisons that activated charcoal doesn’t work on already, like ethanol, cyanide, or even alcohol. That’s why it’s always best to speak to your vet before you use activated charcoal, since not every toxin can be removed.

Do remember that the effectiveness of the charcoal also depends on the timing. The faster you give the activated charcoal to your pet, the better the chances are of helping them.

If the toxin has had more time to spread, activated charcoal won’t be able to do too much. In this case, and even if you have activated charcoal, it’s best to call your vet immediately. They’ll be able to determine if the charcoal is the right option for what your dog has ingested, and if it will still be effective dependent upon how long it’s been.


When there’s something wrong with your pup, you want to do anything to get them back in top shape again. You’re likely panicking, but take a deep breath and call your vet first. See if they can advise you on whether activated charcoal is the right option for your dog.

Activated charcoal is safe for your dog though. Use it to help your dog in an emergency situation until you can make your way to the veterinary hospital. Keep a few on hand in case something happens. And be sure to talk to your vet about your options in any emergency situation.

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