Scientists urge 'extreme caution' after case study series highlights dangers
Scientists are warning vets and pet owners not to use sodium carbonate to induce emesis, as it could cause severe mucosal injury to the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract - particularly if given in its powdered form.
A study published in the Australian Veterinary Journal describes five case studies involving dogs that were given oral sodium carbonate in powdered form after exposure to toxins.
All of the dogs were clinically well before administration of the powder, but suffered various gastrointestinal and respiratory side effects afterwards.
Oral administration of sodium carbonate crystals is frequently used to induce emesis in veterinary patients that are known or suspected to have ingested a toxic substance. In some cases, owners are advised to administer it themselves.
However, despite this, researchers at the Animal Emergency Centre Hallam, Australia, said there is very little clinical evidence of its safety in dogs.
Researchers wrote: ‘It can be inferred that the dogs in this case series developed major mucosal damage secondary to sodium carbonate administration, which is supported by the evidence of severe lingual sloughing, laryngeal oedema and oesophageal petechiation in two of the dogs in this case series after contact with the dry powder.’
They added: ‘The recent increase in patients presenting to our emergency clinic with severe complications following the administration of powdered sodium carbonate raises concerns about the safety of the powdered formulation in particular.’
Sodium carbonate crystals, commonly known as washing soda crystals or Lectric soda, only recently became available in powdered form. Unlike the crystals, the powdered formulation is not diluted with water during the manufacturing process, which gives it a more caustic composition.
It may also pose greater risk of aspiration due to its larger surface area and potential to adhere to more of the gastrointestinal and respiratory mucosa.
Researchers suggest that owners may be more likely to obtain the powdered form than the crystals, owing to a recent change to the brand name.
As a result of the findings, researchers said sodium carbonate is not recommended for inducing emesis and alternatives such as apomorphine should be considered.
They concluded: ‘Although timely intervention is essential for the appropriate management of toxicant ingestion, veterinarians should excise extreme caution when considering the use of sodium carbonate either in the home or in the clinic setting.’