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My Dog Ate Charcoal – Our Vet Explains What to Do

Dr. Stacie Grannum

By Dr. Stacie Grannum

charcoal for dogs

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Dr. Stacie Grannum Photo

Written by

Dr. Stacie Grannum

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Outdoor barbecuing with family and friends is a favorite pastime for many, but it can be hazardous for dogs. While charcoal on its own isn’t necessarily toxic to dogs, the lighter fluid used to start the fire is toxic, and the hot briquettes and ashes left over from the process can be harmful to canines. To keep your dog safe, it is best to have them stay away from your barbeque while you are using it and to clean it thoroughly after each use. Store it safely out of reach and dispose of all ashes properly.

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What to Do If Your Dog Eats Charcoal

  • Remove your dog from the area, and clean up all spills, ashes, and briquettes.
  • Give water to your dog to help soothe any mouth burns or irritation, dilute any lighter fluid, and rinse it from their mouth.
  • Contact your veterinarian. Be prepared to discuss what type of charcoal and lighter fluid was used and whether your dog ate ashes or briquettes. Take note of any mouth irritation or burns. Your veterinarian may suggest a watch-and-wait approach or may suggest bringing your dog in as soon as possible for treatment. Do not induce vomiting unless specifically instructed to do so by the vet.
  • Monitor your dog closely for the next 48 hours. Take note of any vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, constipation, drooling, pawing at the mouth, or other abnormal signs. The charcoal may pass uneventfully in your dog’s stool, which will be apparent.
Young happy veterinary nurse smiling while playing with a dog
Image Credit: David Herraez Calzada, Shutterstock

Emergency Contacts

If your dog ate charcoal and you are unsure what to do, you can contact the Pet Poison Helpline or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control for further instructions. Both agencies have toxicology experts available 24/7. Consultation fees may apply. You can also contact your nearest emergency veterinarian for advice.

Why Can Charcoal Be Harmful?

Charcoal can be problematic for dogs for a few reasons. Hot charcoal can cause mouth burns and irritation. Similarly, lighter fluid can also cause painful mouth irritation and can be toxic if consumed by your dog. Large pieces of charcoal or briquettes can be a gastrointestinal blockage hazard if swallowed by your dog. An intestinal blockage is an emergency and needs to be treated right away.

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Charcoal can be harmful to dogs, so it is best to be proactive when barbecuing. Make sure your dog is kept away from the grill when it is in use. Safely store all lighter fluids and charcoal away from your dog, and clean up all messes right away. For the best prevention, do not allow your dog to eat charcoal or barbeque ashes. Secure your grill when not in use. If your dog eats something potentially toxic, call animal poison control or your nearest veterinarian right away for advice.

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Featured Image Credit: Grillette, Pixabay

Dr. Stacie Grannum

Authored by

Dr. Stacie Grannum was born and raised in Arizona. When Dr. Stacie Grannum was five years old, an encounter with a tiny creature changed her life forever. A baby bird fell high from its nest, and Dr. Grannum diligently cared for it. Despite her attempts to save it, the little bird did not survive. From this devastating loss came a new ambition, carving the path that Dr. Grannum followed. She knew that she wanted to pursue...Read more

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