Cigarettes were proven to be harmful to people’s health decades ago. With the knowledge of these adverse effects, smokers turned to e-cigarettes as a safer option with fewer health risks. E-cigarettes and vapes are believed to be healthier than regular cigarettes. Health professionals are still debating whether e-cigarettes are actually safer, but in the meantime, health concerns have extended to pets.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has reported that the cases of pets ingesting cigarettes has gone down. Unfortunately, there has been a growing number of cases related to e-cigarettes and nicotine poisoning. The nicotine in e-cigarettes is incredibly harmful to our furry friends, so it is important to understand these risks and better protect your pet.
Dangers of E-Cigarettes
E-cigarettes contain varying amounts of liquid nicotine, which is absorbed more quickly. The liquid is put into cartridges. Cartridges can contain six to 24 milligrams of liquid nicotine, which is the equivalent of one to two cigarettes. These cartridges can come in boxes of five to 100. The nicotine is usually flavored, prompting some pets to seek it out because the smell is appealing. The dangers of e-cigarettes cause consequences when pets are exposed to and consume the liquid nicotine.
Additional dangers arise when users refill their own cartridges. To refill their own cartridges, they purchase concentrated liquid nicotine and dilute it as preferred. This highly concentrated liquid can cause dire effects on pets if they consume it.
If a pet gets ahold of an e-cigarette, there is a chance they ingest the casing and battery, as well. These parts can cause gastrointestinal blockage and irritations. Batteries can also cause burns in the digestive system.
Nicotine toxicity or nicotine poisoning occurs when an animal consumes nicotine from cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and some insecticides that contain nicotine. Since e-cigarettes have the highest amount of nicotine, they pose the largest threat of nicotine poisoning to pets.
Nicotine poisoning occurs when pets consume nicotine liquid orally, which then passes through the digestive system. The liquid can also be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes. Absorbing nicotine through the skin is more harmful to pets because the nicotine does not pass through the liver. Instead, it goes directly to the bloodstream.
Symptoms of Nicotine Poisoning
Pets can show symptoms of nicotine poisoning within 15 to 60 minutes of consumption. Mild symptoms include drooling, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and agitation. More severe symptoms include tremors, seizures, depression, lethargy, coma, and elevated heart and respiratory rates. Without immediate treatment, nicotine poisoning can lead to cardiac arrest. An additional symptom is static ataxia, which is when an animal stands on all fours and rocks back and forth.
The severity of nicotine poisoning depends on the size of the pet and how much nicotine they consumed. For example, if a 15-pound dog consumed 16 milligrams of nicotine, it could be fatal. On the other hand, a 70-pound dog that consumed six milligrams would show mild symptoms or none at all.
Treating Nicotine Poisoning
If your pet is showing any of the above symptoms, you should take them into a vet as soon as possible. If they are not showing symptoms yet, but there is evidence that they got into the nicotine, you should call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and Pet Poison Helpline at 888-426-4435.
The treatment for nicotine poisoning depends on the amount consumed and the symptoms. If your pet has not been vomiting, the vet will likely induce vomiting. Your pet may need intravenous fluids to stay hydrated. Your vet may administer medications for anti-vomiting, anti-seizures, blood pressure, heart, and sedation. Although death is not common, nicotine poisoning can still be fatal for pets, so it is important to seek help immediately.
Preventing E-Cigarette Issues
Preventing nicotine poisoning and other issues related to e-cigarettes is simple. Pet parents should keep nicotine away from and out of the reach of pets. Since liquid nicotine is flavorful, it should be stored somewhere that is inaccessible to even the most curious pets. Refilling cartridges can create additional risk since there is a better chance of spilling. Pets explore the environment with their nose and mouth, making spilled nicotine easy for pets to accidentally ingest.
Various studies have proven that second-hand cigarette smoke is harmful to pets. There is not enough research about the effects of second-hand e-cigarette smoke, for either humans and animals. Still, it is best to stay away from pets while using e-cigarettes and vapes.
Even for the most careful pet parents, accidents can occur. Be aware and take action if your pet does consume any form of nicotine.