Major Uses

Activated charcoal is approved for use in animals to treat stomach pain caused by excess gas, diarrhea, indigestion, poisoning, or drug overdose. Also known as the "universal antidote," it is used to absorb unwanted drugs or toxins that may have been ingested. Derived from peat, wood, coconut, or pecan shells, activated charcoal is treated with heat in a way that creates many large pores which increases its surface area substantially.

Activated charcoal does not absorb inorganic salts or heavy metals, but it is very effective in absorbing bacterial enterotoxins and endotoxins that cause diarrhea. Charcoal attracts other substances and stops them from transferring across the gastrointestinal barrier. The maximum amount of toxins that the charcoal absorbs ranges from 100 to 1000 mg, depending on the particular toxin to be absorbed.

Common Precautions

Activated charcoal is a partner in managing poisoning emergencies. Before use of this product, it is suggested that proper life support and gastric emptying be implemented. It may take more than an hour for ToxiBan to cause regurgitation after taking the medication. Because absorption of the toxicant may be a more effective removal than vomiting, it is also suggested that ToxiBan be taken immediately.

When prescribed by a veterinarian, activated charcoal is a generally safe and effective medication, but can cause a few side effects in some animals. Side effects may include constipation, diarrhea, dehydration, and black stool. Sorbitol, an active chemical ingredient found in ToxiBan, can create a cathartic effect on animals and close attention should be provided to prevent possible hypernatremia and hypotension.

Activated charcoal should not be used in animals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to the drug. There are no known contraindications for the use of activated charcoal. It is suggested that that ToxiBan may not be given with or before any antibiotics, vitamins, or amino acids. Antibiotics should be used after any given treatment of ToxiBan. Activated charcoal is not absorbed, therefore overdose is not an issue.


Reasonable care and caution should be taken when storing activated charcoal. It is advised to avoid the generation of dust and activated charcoal should never be stored in a confined space containing wet, activated carbons. Asphyxiation may be a result when wet carbons absorb oxygen.


Activated charcoal is offered as a suspension, suspension with sorbitol, and in granular form. There are no major differences between the suspension and granular treatments, because the granules can be liquefied into the same suspension with added water. The suspension with added sorbitol is customary for pets with Diabetes Mellitus. When taking ToxiBan as a suspension it should be mixed with small amounts of cold water to reduce viscosity. ToxiBan as a suspension should be given via stomach tube, but in an emergency an oral drench may be used. When giving ToxiBan suspension via with a stomach tube, or oral drench for small animals, use 10 to 20 mL per kg (5 to 10 mL per pound) body weight. For large animals, use 4 to 12 mL per kg (2 to 6 mL per pound) body weight.

When taking ToxiBan in granular form, it should be used as a powder in food. When applying ativated charcoal granular form, for a thin suspension, mix 1 volume measure with 5 to 7 parts cold water. Agitate vigorously for 10 to 30 seconds. For small animals, use 2 to 4 grams per kl (1 to 2 grams per pound) body weight. For large animals, use 0.75 to 2.0 grams per kilogram (0.35 to 0.9 grams per pound). One pound (453.6 grams) normally treats an animal weighing 225 to 600 kilograms (500 to 1300 pounds).

Activated charcoal should include several uses. When giving multiple doses of activated charcoal, cathartics should be used intermittently.

Doses may vary in different species when the drug is given by a different route or concurrently with other medications, and with regards to a patient's age, breed, and health status. A veterinarian's dosing instructions and/or those printed on the medication label should be followed closely.

This information is for general reference only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition of your pet. It's intended as a general reference, this information may not include all possible uses, precautions, directions, reactions (including allergic), drug interactions, or withdrawal times. Always consult your local veterinarian and have your pet examined for any advice concerning the diagnosis and treatment of your pet, including which products and doses are most appropriate. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. VetDepot is not a pharmacy. All prescription products are dispensed by our Pharmacy Partner. Article last updated 2/2014.