Charcoal may not seem appetizing to you and I, but it can seem like a yummy snack to our canine friends. Sometimes the smell of meat cooking on the barbeque is extremely tempting, and some of these juices can drip down onto the charcoal below.
This causes dogs around the world to sneak the occasional chunk of coal, leading to an array of health complications to follow.
Many pet parents are shocked when their dogs eat charcoal, so they have no idea what to do when they are in this situation. We want you to be as prepared as possible, so let’s discuss the steps you need to take if your dog happens to eat coal.
What Is Coal Or Charcoal?
Before we dive into the details of what you should do if your dog eats charcoal, we should introduce you to what it is in the first place.
Though coal and charcoal are not one and the same, they are often referred to interchangeably when talking about charcoal used on the grill.
Charcoal is the black stones used to ignite the fire on the grill, and coal is infused into the charcoal to offer it more energy.
Some charcoal comes unaltered and needs to be accompanied by lighter fluid, while other forms of charcoal already contain flammable ingredients.
Moving forward, we will also be using the terms coal and charcoal interchangeably!
Why Do Dogs Eat Coal?
Charcoal does not look appetizing, so many of us cannot imagine our dogs ever wanting to take a bite. While our pups may be curious as to what the coal is, it’s not usually the coal itself that draws them in.
When a dog is interested in eating coal, it is often due to the meat that is cooking above them on the grill. Some of the juices from the meat can drip onto the coal below, making this chunk of rock seem extra tasty.
Not only can the juices from the meat you are cooking make the coal more appetizing, but the smell of your dinner can lead to some interest in the coal as well. If a small piece of charcoal happens to fall from your grill while you are cooking, your pup may dive for the charcoal without realizing it is not actually a piece of meat.
Is Charcoal Toxic To Dogs?
The charcoal itself is not toxic to dogs, but it can be covered in ingredients that are extremely toxic.
Many of the charcoal sold in stores today contain lighter fluid or other accelerants, and this can be extremely dangerous when consumed by your dog.
In addition to the charcoal containing dangerous ingredients, the material itself cannot be digested within your dog’s digestive tract. Charcoal is often made of wood and infused pieces of coal, so eating a large chunk of it can lead to a life-threatening intestinal blockage.
So even if the piece of charcoal your dog ate is not toxic, it is still not safe for them to eat. We want to help you act accordingly if your pup ever gets their paws on coal, so let’s break down more of the details below.
What Can Happen If My Dog Eats Charcoal?
If your dog has just eaten charcoal, you may be questioning what complications could lie ahead. Let’s break down each of the complications we often see with charcoal ingestion in dogs.
Burns In Their Mouth And Throat
One of the most common complications seen in dogs that eat charcoal are burns in their mouth and throat.
The coal is especially hot if they happen to grab a piece that falls while you are grilling, but these chunks of charcoal can be hot in the hour following your grilling as well.
These burns can hurt the moment they happen, but most of the pain will come in the hours and days that follow. Just imagine having a serious burn on your gums, tongue, and even your esophagus.
If your dog did get burned by a piece of charcoal they ate, you may notice your dog licking their lips, pawing at their face, swallowing often, and even drooling excessively. If this is the case for your dog, we suggest having them seen by a vet as soon as possible for treatment.
Toxicity Due To The Accelerants
If your dog consumes a piece of charcoal that is coated in accelerant, then it is possible for them to experience a toxicity to the accelerant.
Some types of accelerant can even be fatal to dogs if they eat enough of it, so we always suggest reaching out to your vet ASAP if you think your dog ate a piece of charcoal that is coated in flammable liquid.
We also suggest bringing the package of the charcoal and the accelerant used if possible, as this will help your vet determine the best treatment method.
As we mentioned above, charcoal cannot be easily digested once a dog eats it. If your dog eats a large piece of charcoal, they run the risk of developing an intestinal obstruction.
If the contents of their stomach and intestines are unable to move freely due to the blockage, this can be a fatal situation. Dogs with an obstruction often require emergency surgery to correct, so it is never something to take lightly.
If your dog has developed a digestive obstruction in any location, there are a few symptoms they may experience. Foreign bodies in dogs can lead to constant vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, abdominal pain, and a fever. If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms we just mentioned, we suggest having them seen by your vet ASAP.
My Dog Ate Charcoal – What Should I Do?
If you caught your dog in the act of eating charcoal, you may be wondering what you should do now. We want to help you offer your pup the care they need, so let’s break down the ideal action plan below.
If you catch your dog simply licking a piece of charcoal, they will likely be just fine. Just make sure you monitor them for any signs of burns or pain within their mouth, and be sure to have them seen quickly if you think their mouth has been damaged in any way.
If your dog has actually consumed some charcoal, we always suggest giving your vet a call.
You can explain how much coal they ate and what type of coal it was, and they can make the best decision based on the information you offered. Just be sure to always bring the packaging of any charcoal or accelerants used if you do need to see the vet.
We also suggest calling your vet immediately when you see this happen, as you would need to get your dog to the vet quickly if they wanted to make them vomit. If you wait too long, you run the risk of the charcoal moving past the stomach and into the intestines.
Some dogs could pass charcoal without issue, but you just never want to take the risk. With how painful and dangerous charcoal consumption can be in dogs, you never want to take the wait and see approach.
Charcoal or coal may not always be toxic to dogs, but it is certainly never safe. We urge you to keep your pup away from the grill the next time you are cooking, and be sure to clean up any messes you could have made during your grilling session.