Cats and dogs can get into a lot of trouble! If they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t, the common advice is to induce vomiting by giving them syrup of ipecac or hydrogen peroxide. (My favorite item recovered by this method was a baby sock that had been eaten by a cat!)

However, there are some things that are actually worse coming back up than they were going down. In those cases, you should NOT induce vomiting by any method. These items include:

  1. Household cleaning products containing acidic or alkaline ingredients, which may be very corrosive. The worst ones include toilet bowel cleaners, drain clearing products, metal cleaners and tarnish removers, and anti-rust compounds. The risk for further injury or aspiration of the product make it very dangerous to vomit.
  2. Batteries, including hearing aid and other small disc batteries. If punctured by inquisitive teeth, they can leak acid or alkaline material, and the moist tissues of the esophagus can actually cause an electrical current to run. The risk of the battery lodging in the esophagus if the animal vomits is too great.
  3. Detergents, including laundry detergents. The little pods are a great temptation to dogs, but spilled products are the primary hazard for cats, if they walk through it and then groom their paws.
  4. Hydrocarbons (petroleum and wood-derived products) such as fuels (such as kerosene, gasoline, motor oil, diesel, and butane) and lubricating oils. Wood-derived hydrocarbons include turpentine, paint solvents, wood stains, or furniture strippers. Some of these products also contain antifreeze, which is lethal to cats in extremely small amounts. Distilled petroleum products pose a very high risk of aspiration if vomiting occurs.
  5. Antidepressant medications are one of the most common household poisons as reported by ASPCA Poison Control. SSRIs (selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors) are often prescribed for both people and pets. Pet medications may be flavored, and therefore could be especially attractive. SSRI drugs include fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat), citalopram (Celexa, Cipramil), fluvoxamine (Faverin, Fevarin, Floxyfral, and Luvox), and escitalopram (Lexapro, Cipralex).
  6. Glass or other sharp objects. We are approaching the holidays, and an amazing number of pets find the lights and Christmas tree ornaments highly entertaining; the risk of a dog (or cat, in the case of mini-ornaments) mouthing one and ingesting broken glass is higher than you might imagine. But I’m sure you can figure out that hurling it back out through all those tender tissues is even worse. Other small, sharp objects like staples, plastic, splintery wood, or cooked bones pose a similar risk. One common solution is to feed bread soaked in milk (high-fiber or whole grain are best), or other source of fiber like canned pumpkin or Metamucil (psyllium). The fibers will surround and buffer small pieces of glass. Milk- or broth-soaked cotton balls are sometimes recommended, but (depending on the size of the dog), can cause an intestinal blockage, making a bad problem much worse.

[Click here for information on when you should induce vomiting.]

Of course, if you suspect your pet has ingested any non-food item, call your veterinarian, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control, and/or Pet Poison Helpline immediately! Emergency treatment or further care may be necessary.

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