Have you noticed all of the e-cigarette stores that have been popping up?  E-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular and with that in mind, we have to ask ourselves if they are dangerous when it comes to our pets. 

The Huffington Post recently reported about a puppy that died after he ate an electronic cigarette capsule.  The dog’s owner dropped a nicotine capsule from his pocket and Ivy, his 14-week-old Staffordshire bull terrier, quickly picked it up.  Ivy didn’t even consume the entire capsule but she had chewed it and pierced the plastic container.  She swallowed a very tiny amount but by the time her owner had picked her up she was frothing at the mouth.  

Her owner rushed her to the vet and within ten minutes, Ivy was receiving treatment on an emergency basis.  Unfortunately, the toxic effects of the nicotine had taken their toll on Ivy and she didn’t survive.

What are E-Cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are replacing the traditional cigarettes and providing smokers with a smoke-free source of nicotine.  This is often referred to as “vaping”.  They are operated off of batteries and look like regular tobacco cigarettes.  They are filled with E-liquids that contain nicotine.  An atomizer heats the liquid and turns it into a vapor that can be inhaled.  The liquids can be purchased in groups of 5 to 100 cartridges.

E-cigarettes, Blu E Cigs Pro Kit Pen Style E Cigarette

Are They Dangerous to Pets?

Nicotine can be harmful to pets.  If your pet ingests a large amount of nicotine, the effects can be life-threatening and if he ingests a small amount, he can experience several different symptoms.  If you notice your pet exhibiting any of the following, call your veterinarian immediately.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • High heart rate
  • High respiratory rate
  • Depression
  • Tremors
  • Ataxia
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Cyanosis
  • Coma
  • Stumbling and/or incoordination
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lethargy (in large amounts)
  • Fast breathing or breathing difficulty
  • Drooling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Collapse
  • Cardiac Arrest

 These signs can be present in your pet within 15 minutes to an hour of ingestion.

How Much Will Hurt Your Pet?

If your pet chews up an e-cigarette, it could injure his mouth.  Gastrointestinal upset and the risk of a possible foreign body obstruction is also possible.  With an e-cigarette, the liquid cartridges are the biggest concern when it comes to hurting your dog.  Each cartridge has 6 mg to 24 mg of nicotine and propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavoring agents which are equivalent to the nicotine contained in 1 to 2 regular cigarettes.  Since they can be purchased in packs that contain 5 to 100 cartridges, it’s most likely that your dog will eat more than one cartridge if he gets into a pack of them.  If a 50 pound dog ingests just one cartridge, he can show signs of poisoning including vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, etc. and if a dog that is less than 10 pounds ingests one cartridge, he could die.  Of course, eating multiple cartridges will increase the chances of death and could be fatal for your dog.

What You Should Do If Your Pet Chews An E-Cigarette

You should immediately take your dog to the vet if you see him eat an e-cigarette or the e-liquid.  Getting your pet to the vet immediately may save your pet’s life.  It isn’t usually possible to treat your dog at home because even if he ate a small dose, it could still be very dangerous for him.

Treatment for E-Cigarette E-Liquid

The amount of nicotine in your dog’s stomach needs to be reduced, all the while keeping your dog alive until the nicotine is broken down by the body.  If your dog has ingested a large amount of nicotine, even with treatment, he may not survive.

Your vet might do any of the following:

  • Have you induce vomiting if you saw your dog eat the nicotine and your dog is alert. 
  • Bathe your dog immediately using a mild dish-washing soap if the nicotine exposure was dermal.
  • If large amounts were ingested, pumping the stomach may be recommended.
  • Reduce further nicotine absorption by giving repeated doses of activated charcoal.
  • A ventilator may be used to help your dog breath until the toxin can be removed from his system.  This is usually used for severely affected dogs.
  • Your dog may be given intravenous fluids to help enhance the elimination of the nicotine.
  • Other treatments may include oxygen and seizure control medications

When small amounts of the liquid are ingested, the prognosis is usually good if your dog is treated immediately.  The prognosis isn’t as good with dogs that ingest large amounts of the liquid.  If your dog survives the first four to five hours, he will have a much better chance of surviving because most of the nicotine is eliminated from the body within 16 to 20 hours. 

Prevention is always the best medicine and therefore, all e-cigarettes and cartridges should be kept out of the reach of pets and children.  We mustn’t forget that e-cigarettes aren’t the only items that are laced with nicotine.  You should also keep nicotine gum and lozenges, raw tobacco, and conventional cigarettes in a safe place.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out!

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Filed under: Dog Care

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