During this time of the year, we are faced with a huge increase in the number of ingested toxicities in both dogs and cats! Would you know what to do and how to respond if your dog ate something they shouldn’t? A quick google search may suggest that you feed your dog ‘hydrogen peroxide’ to induce vomiting. The thought of doing this horrifies me. This article aims to explain why not to use hydrogen peroxide if your dog’s eaten something nasty.
What is hydrogen peroxide?
Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound which comes in a liquid form, it is slightly more viscous than water. In humans, hydrogen peroxide is used as an antiseptic, bleaching agent and oxidising solution. It is a household product which many people have stored under their kitchen sink! There are variable concentrations of hydrogen peroxide available to purchase and as a rule of thumb, the greater the concentration, the more hazardous and dangerous this is to your pets.
Why do some people use it to make dogs sick?
The chemicals which make up a hydrogen peroxide solution act as an irritant to tissues they have contact with. When ingested, it irritates the mouth, oesophagus and stomach lining, to exactly what degree of irritation this creates isn’t always stated in literature but this can vary from mild to severe. Because of this irritation, it is thought to be an effective way of inducing vomiting, also known as emesis. Inducing emesis is often recommended as a first line treatment by your Vet following toxin ingestion to initiate gastric decontamination. A side effect to ingesting hydrogen peroxide can include vomiting.
Why is hydrogen peroxide not recommended in dogs?
So, why is it that Vets do not usually recommend feeding hydrogen peroxide to your dog any more? Many online resources state that giving your dog 3% hydrogen peroxide is safe to use, but this is not strongly supported by scientific evidence. The following points will further discuss reasons why feeding hydrogen peroxide to your dog is not recommended:
Hydrogen peroxide vs apomorphine
A study was conducted which compared the use of 3% hydrogen peroxide vs apomorphine to inducing vomiting in dogs (Khan et al, 2012). Apomorphine is an injection normally administered by UK Vets to make dogs vomit. The study concluded that hydrogen peroxide had a mean duration of 42 minutes, compared to 27 minutes with apomorphine. This means that vomiting occurred for longer in hydrogen peroxide patients and a known side effect is prolonged vomiting. Additionally, the mean estimate for the recovery of ingested toxins was also lower with hydrogen peroxide compared with apomorphine.
Recommendations from VPIS, the experts
Apomorphine, which is available from your Vet is the emetic of choice in dogs and in the UK (VPIS). The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), recommend that induced vomiting should only be carried out by a Veterinary professional and that giving your dog hydrogen peroxide can cause toxic effects which may worsen their condition and lead to fatalities. Hydrogen peroxide is classed as an unsafe emetic.
Vomiting isn’t always a good idea
There are some situations where your dog may eat something toxic and emesis and immediate gastric emptying is NOT recommended. For example, if your dog ingests caustic, corrosive or volatile substances, if you make them vomit it can tragically lead to perforation and severe damage to the oesophagus and gastric walls. Your Vet will therefore not recommend emesis in these patients and I highly recommend seeking support and guidance from your Vet if you suspect your dog has eaten anything that may be toxic. In these patients, giving them hydrogen peroxide could prove tragic for your canine companion.
Recommendations from other scientific studies
Amongst human literature, it states that hydrogen peroxide may cause irritation of the gastrointestinal tract with nausea, vomiting, haematemesis (blood in vomit) and foaming at the mouth (Watt et al, 2004). This foaming can lead to obstruction of the respiratory tract and aspiration pneumonia (Watt et al, 2004).
Bad side effects in many dogs
In dogs, the side effect to ingesting 3% hydrogen peroxide can be mild, but severe reactions do and can occur. Severe gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) can occur following hydrogen peroxide ingestion and in severe cases this can lead to stomach ulceration, bleeding and even death. It has been documented that pets have sadly lost their lives following catastrophic internal bleeding following ingestion of hydrogen peroxide. In my opinion, and I’m certain other Veterinary professionals will agree, it is absolutely not worth the risk giving this to your dog. Don’t you agree?
To conclude, I hope this article has summarised why not to consider using hydrogen peroxide when your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have. Always contact your Vet immediately for advice on what to do and please don’t just reach into that kitchen cupboard, you are likely to do more harm than good!