Vet Tech Corner: 3 Tips For Giving Activated Charcoal
There are four little words that send terror into the heart of many veterinary technicians: “Give him activated charcoal.” That sentence invokes mental images of pets spitting charcoal all over the treatment room—and the people inside.
Here are three tips from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center that can help make the process easier for patient and provider alike:
Make it Palatable
Many dogs need activated charcoal because they are very indiscriminate eaters, so use this to your advantage and mix charcoal with a small amount of dog food. In most cases, the dog food won’t significantly affect the adsorptive capacity of the activated charcoal and will help to prevent everyone from being covered in activated charcoal.
If it isn’t possible to have the pet ingest it and you have to give AC via a syringe, you can cover up and protect your scrubs (charcoal will stain them black) by using a garbage bag with holes cut for the head and arms. Keep your patient clean by using an e-collar while giving the AC or using the old garbage bag trick (with just a head hole cut) or making a bib from an old towel. Another trick for large dogs is to put the head through the sleeve of a barrier surgical gown, leaving the eyes covered – the dog can’t see you coming with the syringe.
Move to Tube
It's notoriously difficult to administer activated charcoal to cats—so much so, in fact, that we will often skip it if at all possible. If you must, though, give it via a nasogastric tube. This will prevent a lot of patient objections, will ensure the charcoal actually gets into the cat, and help keep everyone clean.
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