A recent report highlights the risks of using soda crystals (washing soda, sodium carbonate) as an emetic in dogs. The mechanism of action of washing soda is not fully understood but it is thought to act as a direct alkaline irritant to the mucosa of the upper gastrointestinal tract.
The dogs in the report developed various gastrointestinal complications (haematemesis, ulceration and sloughing of the tongue, oesophagitis), one had significant laryngeal oedema and ulceration and three dogs developed aspiration pneumonitis. One dog died, one was euthanised, two recovered and one was lost to follow up.
Washing soda, even that labelled as soda crystals, are generally available as a fine powder. The authors hypothesise that the fine, granular composition has the potential to adhere to a greater proportion of the gastrointestinal and respiratory mucosa and may be less readily eliminated when vomiting occurs. Also powdered washing soda has a larger surface area and may pose a greater risk of aspiration compared to oral administration of a single crystal.
The VPIS also has reports of gastrointestinal and respiratory complications after use of washing soda as an emetic.
In view of the risks and the availability of licensed products for the induction of emesis in dogs, washing soda cannot be recommended.
Reference: Watson AK, Indrawirawan YH. Side effects of powdered sodium carbonate (washing or ‘Lectric’ soda) used as an oral emetic agent in five dogs. Aust Vet J. 2019;97(5):157-161.