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Your Dog Just Ate Something Bad: Should You Make Your Dog Throw Up?

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Your Dog Just Ate Something Bad: Should You Make Your Dog Throw Up

This article was updated on August 6th, 2023

During my years working as a vet tech in a veterinary emergency room I’ve seen just how many dogs eat things that are potentially harmful. Dogs eat things.  All sorts of things.  Socks, chicken carcasses, roadkill, batteries; the list of aberrant things ingested by dogs is endless.

So what do you do when your dog eats an indigestible object or a possible toxin?  What are your options?

The first thing to do is to call a veterinarian.  They can help you decide what course of action to take.  Don’t delay the call, call a vet as soon as you suspect that your dog ate something they shouldn’t have.  Most after hour emergency clinics will be happy to help you if your vet is not available.

There are three main concerns when a dog eats something they shouldn’t have

  • Will the ingested item cause severe gastroenteritis?
  • Is the item poisonous or toxic? 
  • Will the object get stuck in the stomach or intestines causing a bowel blockage or obstruction?

After taking all factors into consideration your veterinarian will advise you as to what to do.

Concern for gastroenteritis:

People eat a large variety of foods and some of them are very high in fat.  Our dogs are usually fed a more regular diet lower in fat then pizza or pork chops!  When a dog eats foods high in fat or spicier than they are used to they can develop gastroenteritis or pancreatitis.  Also, dogs have a tendency to eat a whole lot of something that we merely nibble at, such as candy, beef jerky or two pounds of raw beef.

Only if the food eaten is toxic to dogs or in the most extreme cases of food ingestion would it be advisable to make your dog vomit.

Most likely in the case of random food ingestion your veterinarian will recommend monitoring your dog.

Monitor closely at home-

If the ingested item is not toxic and your veterinarian thinks that your dog should be able to pass it they may advise you to monitor your dog closely for any abdominal discomfort, inappetence, vomiting or diarrhea.

When monitoring your dog if any signs of illness do occur you should let your vet know and depending on the severity of the clinical signs bring your pooch in to be seen.   It may be wise to bring certain breeds prone to pancreatitis into the hospital right away (Yorkshire terriers and Miniature schnauzers for example).

Is it safe to induce vomiting at home?

There will be times when your veterinarian thinks the best move is to make your dog vomit.  If this is the case it is a good idea to bring your dog into the vet hospital and let the pros handle it. There are risk factors, mainly for aspiration pneumonia, any time a dog is made to vomit and having it done in a hospital setting decreases the chance of ill effects significantly.

The drugs used in the hospital to induce vomiting are much safer than what you can use at home. 

Your veterinarian also can administer drugs to stop the nausea once your dog has vomited.

Still, there may be a time when your dog needs to vomit, but you can’t get to the vet hospital.  In this situation you may need to make your dog vomit at home.

When to induce vomiting in your dog, Should I make my dog vomit after ingesting a toxin?

Please speak to a veterinarian about your options before trying to get your dog to vomit up a toxin.

Caustic or corrosive toxins should not be brought back up as they can cause permanent damage to the mouth and throat. Drugs or chemicals that stimulate the central nervous system should not be purged through vomiting as this can increase the chance of seizures.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

A veterinarian can help you determine if the ingested toxin is either caustic or a CNS stimulant.

Concern for toxin ingestion:

There are a lot of items that dogs eat that are toxic.  Rat poison and anti freeze are two examples of things that are obviously bad news.

Other things are not as straight forward.  Over the counter and prescription drugs used every day by people can be toxic to dogs.  An overdose of any drug is potentially toxic.

Any time a drug, cleaning product, potentially harmful plant or chemical is eaten by your dog you should immediately call a veterinarian.  They may be able to assure you the ingested item is non toxic.  If they are not sure (remember, they’re not toxicologists!), they will have you call a pet poison hotline.  Here are two:

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, 888-426-4435 [].    

The Pet Poison Helpline, 800-213-6680 []).

Most of these hotlines have a fee, but it is well worth it.  They may tell you that there is no need for concern.  If they recommend your pooch be taken to the hospital they will give you a case number to give to your veterinarian.  They will then consult with your vet to help form a treatment plan.

Keep in mind that some toxins require more than just purging to ensure your dog’s health.  Some need to be further removed from the body by having a vet give your dog oral medications that bind with the toxin.  Sometimes intravenous fluids are required to protect the kidneys, and depending on the ingested toxin sometimes liver protective drugs are given.

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

Commonly ingested toxins:

  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Batteries
  • Prescription medications
  • Over the counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen=, NSAIDs
  • Rat and mouse poison
  • Chewing gum or other foods containing xylitol
  • Anti freeze
  • Pennies

My dog just ate a sock!  Should I make him vomit?

Before inducing vomiting be sure that the ingested item is small and soft enough to safely come up through the esophagus. 

Concern for foreign body ingestion:

When a dog swallows a non toxic object that the body can’t digest one of three things happens, the dog vomits it up, it passes through the digestive tract and exits with feces, or it gets stuck and has to be surgically removed. 

Sometimes a foreign object can be removed from the stomach endoscopically.  Here is a link explaining endoscopy:

Foreign body obstructions can be gastric, referring to the stomach, or intestinal. 

With a complete obstruction the bowel is completely blocked so that no ingesta (stomach/intestinal content) can get through.  This can cause pain and vomiting.  Left untreated this will lead to death.

So, when you know that your dog has swallowed something that could potentially cause an obstruction call your vet.  They have seen it all and can be really helpful in deciding the best course of action.

When it is NOT OK to make your dog vomit-

Caustic chemicals:

It is not safe to make your dog vomit if the item swallowed is caustic or corrosive. Some chemicals when vomited back up can permanently damage the throat.  Your veterinarian will be able to alert you to this or have you call a pet poison hotline if they are not sure.

Large, pointy or sharp objects:

Some ingested, indigestible objects may be large enough or shaped oddly enough to get stuck in the esophagus or larynx (back of the throat).  Others may pierce or tear the esophagus.  Let your vet decide if it is safe for you to induce vomiting.  They have a lot of experience with many dogs eating many objects.  They may feel that it is not safe and recommend you bring your dog in for a radiograph (x ray).

Your dog has already vomited:

Too much vomiting may cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Difficulty swallowing:

If your dog can’t swallow properly inducing vomiting could easily cause him or her to choke or cause aspiration pneumonia.  Here is a link to a great article on aspiration pneumonia:

Dog laying on their side:

Do not induce vomiting if your dog is unable to sit up or stand.  Never induce vomiting if your dog is laying on his or her side.  There is a high risk of causing aspiration pneumonia while administering the vomit inducing substance and during vomiting when a  dog is laying on their side.

Difficulty breathing:

If your dog is having trouble breathing he or she really needs to be seen by a vet.  It is not a good idea to cause vomiting in this situation.  Forcing a dog to swallow or vomit can make the respiratory issue much worse.


If your dog has megasophagus do not induce vomiting, there is a high risk for aspiration pneumonia.  What is megasophagus?  Here’s a link:  https//

Brachycephalic breeds- Shmush nosed dogs are at a higher risk for asp pneumonia, only induce vomiting after speaking to a veterinarian to ensure it is the best way to proceed.

CNS stimulants-  If your dog ate a drug that stimulates the central nervous system do not induce vomiting as it can increase the risk of seizure.

Seizures-  Do not attempt to induce vomiting in a seizing dog, for fear of causing aspiration pneumonia.

Approved Method for inducing vomiting in a dog:

First call a veterinarian.  Any time a dog is made to vomit using oral emetics (vomit inducers) there is  risk for aspiration pneumonia.  A chat with a veterinarian will help ensure the safety of your pooch.

Hydrogen peroxide:

3% Hydrogen peroxide is the safest and only recommended method for inducing vomiting at home in dogs.  It should never be given to cats.

3% hydrogen peroxide is probably the most common substance used to get a dog to vomit at home.  Most people have it on hand, if not it is easy to get a hold of. 

That said, it does have its down side.  Hydrogen peroxide is not considered a completely reliable method as it doesn’t always work.  It can cause gastrointestinal irritation, especially if it is not vomited up, and it can cause ulcers in the mouth and throat. 

Although rare, it can cause severe irritation to the bowel causing internal bleeding or oxygen gas bubbles in the blood stream that can result in respiratory distress or seizures.

Still it is the safest way to induce vomiting in a dog at home.  It is usually successful and side effects are usually minimal.

The dog dose is 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds with a maximum of 3 tablespoons total for dogs over 45 pounds.

If the initial dose is not effective it can be repeated after 10 minutes as long as you do not give more than 3 tablespoons in total for large dogs.  A third dose is not recommended.  If your dog doesn’t vomit 30 minutes after the second dose you should call a veterinarian.

Hydrogen peroxide as an emetic is not without risk.  Oral administration can cause aspiration pneumonia.  Also, it can cause ulcers in the mouth and throat and gastric and intestinal irritation, especially if vomiting doesn’t occur.

Care should be given to use only 3% Hydrogen peroxide and not to exceed the correct dose.

Other methods of inducing vomiting are out there, but not recommended.  They each carry risk of serious side effects.

Administering 3% hydrogen peroxide:

1. If your dog has not eaten within the last two hours prior to ingesting the item needing to be purged give him or her a small meal.  It is easier to vomit with some food in the stomach.

2.  Use a turkey baster or syringe to administer the liquid.  If you don’t have either of these items you can wash out and use a small or medium sized squeeze bottle (ketchup for example).

3.  Slowly drip the hydrogen peroxide into the side of the mouth as your dog swallows.  Do not shoot it straight into the back of the mouth.  Your dog needs to have time to swallow so as not to aspirate (take liquid into the lungs).

4.  You can utilize the cheek “pooch”, insert a small amount into the cheek “pooch” and encourage your dog to swallow by rubbing the throat.

5.  If your dog refuses to swallow let the hydrogen peroxide fall from their mouth.  You want to gently encourage the peroxide, but it is not safe to force it aggressively.

6.  Stay with your dog during the whole process to ensure they are sitting up or standing when they vomit, that they stop vomiting  and are able to relax afterwards.

7.  After administration of hydrogen peroxide watch for the following symptoms and call your vet if any of them occur: abdominal pain, inability to stop vomiting, blood in their vomit, weakness or disorientation, rapid breathing, difficulty breathing

Substances NOT recommended for inducing vomiting in dogs

Syrup of ipecac:

This drug is made from the root of the Ipecacuanha plant.  It is not commonly used as it once was.

It is a cardiotoxic drug and may cause heart arrhythmias as well as muscle weakness and bloody diarrhea.

Salt and saltwater:

Salt is not recommended because too much salt raises the sodium blood level, if it rises too high the brain is affected.  You may see seizures and possibly coma.

Vegetable oil or fatty foods:

This is not recommended as you may cause a serious case of gastroenteritis or even worse a pancreatitis, which ranges from mild to life threatening.

Mustard seed:

Mustard seed is not recommended because it can cause serious electrolyte imbalances.


This shouldn’t be attempted.  It doesn’t work in dogs as they don’t have the same gag reflex that people do.  It is also dangerous for you and stressful for your dog.


  • Elana Benasutti, Vet Tech

    Elana Benasutti is a Certified Veterinary Technician in the state of Pennsylvania. She earned her degree from Harcum College located in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Elana spent her first ten years as a certified technician working as the ultrasound technician in the Radiology Department at the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary teaching hospital, MJR VHUP. Elana spent the next seventeen years as a critical care nurse in the Intensive Care Unit of MJR VHUP.

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