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Stories from the surgery: why e-cigarette nicotine is dangerous for cats and dogs

Stories from the surgery: why e-cigarette nicotine is dangerous for cats and dogs

Petplan vet Brian Faulkner has seen plenty of strange and interesting things in his career and this month talks us through a new problem that he and his colleagues have come across.

The surge in e-cigarette usage in recent years means many households have the devices lying around in places where dogs and cats are able to access them which can cause some serious problems…

As a vet with 20 years’ experience it’s rare for me to come across anything that I haven’t seen before.

However, after meeting with some fellow vets recently, talk turned to a new problem that can cause your cat or dog serious harm – e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes pose a serious threat of poisoning to dogs and cats which many pet owners don’t realise.

The nicotine-delivering devices are becoming a more significant threat to pets. While dogs account for the majority of cases, nicotine in the e-cigarettes and liquid refill solution is toxic to cats as well.

Here are the facts you need to know about e-cigarettes and nicotine poisoning…

What makes e-cigarettes toxic to pets?

The aroma of liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes can be alluring to dogs, and flavoured e-cigarettes can be even more enticing.

The issue is the amount of nicotine in each cartridge (between 6 mg and 24 mg), which contains the nicotine equivalent of one to two traditional cigarettes. However, purchase packs of five to 100 cartridges multiply that amount many times over, posing a serious threat to pets who chew them.

For example, if a single cartridge is ingested by a 25kg dog, clinical signs of poisoning are likely to occur. But if a dog that weighs 5kg ingests the same amount, death is possible. Dogs of any weight that ingest multiple e-cigarette cartridges are at risk of severe poisoning and even death.

In addition to the toxicity of nicotine, the actual e-cigarette casing can result in oral injury when chewed, and can cause gastrointestinal upset with the risk of a foreign body obstruction.

Some e-cigarette users buy vials of liquid nicotine solution for refilling e-cigarette cartridges. The small bottles hold enough liquid to fill multiple cartridges, meaning they contain a considerable amount of nicotine.

Pet owners should be very careful to store them – along with all component parts of e-cigarettes – out of the reach of pets such as handbags that are left on the floor.

What happens when e-cigarettes are ingested by pets?

Nicotine poisoning in pets has a rapid onset of symptoms – generally within 15 to 60 minutes following ingestion.

Symptoms for dogs and cats include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Agitation
  • Elevations in heart rate and respiration rate
  • Depression
  • Tremors
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Blue colouration to mouth and gums
  • Coma
  • Cardiac arrest

 What to do if a pet is exposed?

Because nicotine poisoning can happen so rapidly following ingestion, prompt veterinary care can mean the difference between life and death for a pet – so get your pet to your vet as soon as possible.

Your vet may undertake the following measures:

  • Induce vomiting if you saw your pet ingest the nicotine
  • Pump your pet’s stomach if large amounts were consumed
  • Advise repeated doses of activated charcoal to reduce absorption
  • Place your pet on a ventilator to help their breathing until the toxins are cleared
  • Provide intravenous fluids and other supportive cares such as oxygen and seizure control medications

As always though, prevention is the best medicine. E-cigarettes, cartridges and vials of refilling solution should always be kept out of the reach of pets and children.

Do you have any experiences with similar problems? Let us know your stories below...

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A Ball
You are so ignorant you stupid stupid people. 2.5 million people in the UK alone use ecigs instead of smoking which has had a huge decrease in deaths and cancers caused by smoking. Now if people stop using ecigs they will smoke and this is in statistics therefore all those poor pets will be inhaling secondhand smoke again, not a little vaper and nicotine that they are from ecigs. So why don't you start bleating on about the affects that smoking has on animals and stop attacking ecigs when these are clearly doing more good than harm to both humans and animals
Patricia Sanders
do not be ignorant, all this is doing is advising people be careful where they leave the nicotine, I am glad to be told as I would hate to lose a pet to poisoning, it is no different to advising to keep out of reach of children, it is not saying don't use them it is saying be careful because people feel the need to have flavours which could tempt animals or children so grow up and read the whole piece before being critical of the post
A. Ball. How quick you were to defend your habit and you hadn't even read the article properly. Who is the ignorant party here, with all due respect, maybe you should read and digest information before being critical of professionals who have clear evidence of the outcomes, never should anyone decry what is going on in all sorts of research these days.Dogs, cats, small children, they all have the same enquring minds, anything will go into the mouth. Children esp, who see their parents sucking on these adult dummies will only copy cos they think it's the normal thing to do. Nobody is stating that you should give up, just be responsible.
Well i am an ecig smoker and to be fair you should store the liquid in a safe place. Mine gets put on side were my boy cant get too it. He had one of my bottles once thankfully an empty one that i literally just dropped but if it wasnt n i didnt notice it could of been alot worse. Use your brain people if u have kids would u leave it lying around? Nope.. same with animals if they see something they can grab they will get.. simples.. no rocket science..
Hi Nat,Thanks for your comments Nat. We hope you enjoyed our blog post. Please do visit again as we post a new topic weekly. ThanksJade - the Petplan Team
And this is why E-Liquid bottles clearly state - keep out of the reach of children and pets. This is the equivalent of moaning about the risk of trapping your bear in bear trap that clearly states - keep away from bears you don't want to trap. Absolute pointless click bait at the expense of those trying to quit smoking, trying to push your shitty pet insurance by tapping into a subject of debate.
Elke Schluter
I think all people who have animals and children should make sure not to leave anything laying around what is poison. as an example cigarette user I always make sure my stuff is well out of reach of my work derful dogs.i could not forgive myself if I would find any of my dogs sick because I was uncarefully. lots of people do that care enough these days, what's so sad.as an animal owner we have the same responsibly as parent with kids.so before you get an animal get good information what's poison that includes not only e and cigarette it includes chocolate , gaps , raisins, artificial sugar, and much more.Also I am a smoker, I would never smoke in a room when windows are closed or even in my car.pets inhale the poison and can get very ill.Make sure if u smoke like me, not to smoke around your pets.
Hasse Karlgreen
In the home, a number of cigarettes are used. The cigarettes produce dangerous smoke. It is not only bad for children and non-smoker but it is also not good for pets and animals. The second hand smoking causes many problems to cat and dogs.

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