Ah, the old heave-ho!
Many owners are familiar with the procedure of trying to induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide in their pets in an emergency situation. Whether you do it at home or have it done at the clinic, making your pet throw up is always the first step when dealing with poisons, right?
(Please do read all the following precautions before attempting this at home to ensure that it is safe. If directed by your vet, the safe dose is provided at the bottom of the page.)
While it is often a very common treatment for many types of exposures, there are a few risks involved with giving hydrogen peroxide to an animal:
- Aspiration – Some animals are at a high risk of inhaling either the peroxide or the vomit.
- Vaso-vagal response – The strain of vomiting can overstimulate the vagus nerve. This can lead to complications for pets with seizure conditions or heart issues.
- Overdose – When administered properly, peroxide can be successful in inducing vomiting. However, overdoses are possible and can lead to ulceration of the stomach.
- Stomach strain – A pet who has recently had abdominal surgery should not throw up if at all possible because of the strain vomiting puts on the tummy.
There are also certain exposures where it is unsafe to make a pet throw up:
- Caustic Substances – Bleach, batteries, or any other acidic or alkaline chemicals burn as they go down. They also burn if they come back up, so we don’t want to make them throw up.
- Fast-Acting Substances – If we’re expecting to see signs very quickly, inducing vomiting can be dangerous. It would be awful for your dog to start to have a seizure in the middle of trying to administer peroxide.
- Older Ingestions – If your pet ate something 8 hours ago, there is a possibility that inducing vomiting wouldn’t be helpful. The time frame will vary based on what your pet ingested.
- Substances with a High Risk of Aspiration – motor oils, soaps, cooking oils, etc. are all very easily inhaled. Inducing vomiting in these situations is not the best option.
- Substances that prevent vomiting – If it’s geared towards stopping vomiting, inducing vomiting is not likely to be as successful at home.
Vomiting at home (or at all) is also not something we can do with all pets:
- Cats – Peroxide is generally not successful in cats to induce vomiting. They also have a very high risk of inhaling peroxide, so kitties should be taken to the clinic instead of induced at home.
- Rabbits, Rats, Guinea Pigs, and Horses – These guys can’t vomit, so we shouldn’t try to make them!
- Cows, sheep, goats
After going through the whole list of times we can’t induce vomiting, there is only one way to safely induce it at home, which is peroxide. If you don’t have a bottle handy at home and your vet directs you to induce, do not try:
- Salt – Too much salt is actually toxic to pets, and giving salt to induce vomiting will only make things worse. Never, ever, ever use salt despite what you read online.
- Sticking your hand down their throat – This is never successful and can result in trauma to your dog, or you being bitten.
If your pet swallows something it should not, your first action should be to reach for a phone to call the nearest veterinary professional – not for the bottle of peroxide.
However, if directed by your vet, the safe dose in dogs for hydrogen peroxide is 1 mL per pound (or 1 tsp per 5 pounds) given orally. Never exceed 45 mLs or 3 tbsp in one dose.
The peroxide should be fresh (within the expiry date) or still fizz and bubble when it comes into contact with subdermal tissue.
After administration, walk your dog in circles indoors on a flat surface like tile or linoleum. This will help stir up their stomach contents and encourage vomiting. When they do vomit, we will have to go through it (ew, I know) to try and find the swallowed object. Often we need to assess volume, and this is difficult if they vomit on the carpet.
Then contact your vet or poison control center with the results.