When pets ingest something potentially dangerous, owners’ first instinct is often to get it out of their system by making them vomit. The question is, is it ever safe to make a pet vomit at home?
For cats, the answer is NO. Unfortunately, there is no safe or effective way to make our feline friends vomit at home. In fact, using something like hydrogen peroxide can cause significant injury to a cat’s gastrointestinal system, exacerbating the original problem. If your cat ingested something harmful, they should be brought to a local veterinarian for evaluation as soon as possible.
On the other hand, with dogs it is not as straightforward.
If your dog potentially ingested something dangerous, the safest thing to do is to contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline for further instructions. They will need to know what was specifically ingested by your pet and when. These veterinary professionals will confirm what your pet consumed is safe to be returned through vomiting and if the timeline to do so is correct. You do not want to make your pet vomit if it is unnecessary or unsafe to do so, especially considering the risks:
- Aspiration/inhalation of liquid leading to pneumonia
- Ulcers of the esophagus and/or stomach
- Injury from vomiting sharp or corrosive objects
- Increased risks in specific breeds and pets with certain medical conditions
If you are a significant distance from a veterinarian and time is of the essence, inducing vomiting at home may be the best option. If that is the case, please contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline to guide you and assess the situation. Most often, veterinarians will recommend using unexpired 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in dogs at home. If you do not have this available, DO NOT use a substitute as you may cause more harm.
Common substances that should NEVER be used to induce vomiting:
- Syrup of ipecac – toxic if animal does not vomit
- Table salt – can lead to salt poisoning and brain swelling
- Powdered mustard – causes lung damage if inhaled
The bottom line is, if your pet ingested something harmful, inducing vomiting may or may not be advised. Please seek veterinary care or call Pet Poison Helpline® for recommendations specific to your situation.
Megan Blomquist, Pet Poison Helpline DVM student extern, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 2024
Samantha Koch, CVT, Veterinary Information Specialist II, Pet Poison Helpline