Gastrointestinal obstruction secondary to activated charcoal granule impaction in a dog

Kate S. Farrell, Jamie M. Burkitt-Creedon, Laura G. Osborne, Erin A. Gibson, Anna M. Massie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To describe a serious adverse event of gastrointestinal obstruction requiring surgery following routine administration of multiple doses of activated charcoal (AC) granules, which were prescribed for carprofen toxicosis. Case Summary: A 2-year-old female neutered Airedale Terrier presented for ingestion of 207 mg/kg of carprofen. Decontamination was initiated with apomorphine to induce emesis. Along with additional supportive care, the dog received an initial dose of 75 mL of AC suspension containing sorbitol by mouth (15.6 g of AC, or 0.6 g/kg), followed by 50 g of AC granules every 8 hours for 4 additional doses. While hospitalized, the dog experienced clinical signs, including vomiting and black diarrhea, as well as bloodwork changes including mild to moderate elevations in kidney and liver enzymes. Given clinical improvement after 72 hours of hospitalization, the patient was discharged for monitoring and ongoing care at home. Two days later, the patient presented again for nausea, dark diarrhea with frank blood, and panting. Abdominal ultrasound showed findings suspicious for partially obstructive foreign material or atypical impacted fecal material partially occluding the distal ileum. Despite medical management overnight, recheck ultrasound the following day demonstrated persistent obstruction with ileal foreign material. Exploratory laparotomy and enterotomy revealed moderate distension and obstruction of the distal ileum with black granular foreign material consistent with charcoal granules. The patient remained in hospital for supportive care for 4 days following the procedure, and all clinical signs were resolved at the time of discharge. New or Unique Information Provided: This report documents a serious adverse event of gastrointestinal obstruction associated with routine multidose AC administration, which has been occasionally reported in people but not in dogs. The potential for this complication should be taken into account when prescribing multiple doses of AC granules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-466
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • canine
  • carprofen
  • decontamination
  • nasogastric
  • obstruction
  • toxicant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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