We all know nicotine poses serious health threats, and according to the Pet Poison Helpline, nicotine poisoning in pets is on the rise.
“We have handled cases for dogs and cats poisoned by eating traditional cigarettes or tobacco products containing nicotine for many years,” says Ahna Brutlag, DVM, DABT, DABVT and associate director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline. “As the use of e-cigarettes has become more widespread, our call volume for cases involving them has increased considerably.”
E-cigarettes are designed to resemble traditional cigarettes; the battery-operated devices atomize liquid that contains nicotine, turning it into a vapor that can be inhaled. What makes these cigarettes attractive to dogs and cats are the wide array of scents and flavors. Your pet smells the aromas, and wants to ingest them.
In addition to the scent being alluring to animals, Brutlag, explains that the issue is the amount of nicotine in each cartridge. It measures between 6 mg and 24 mg. “Each cartridge contains the nicotine equivalent of one to two traditional cigarettes,” she says. “Many people don’t stop at two, so nicotine poisoning in pets has a rapid onset of symptoms — generally within fifteen to sixty minutes following ingestion. Symptoms for dogs and cats include vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, elevations in heart rate and respiration rate, depression, tremors, ataxia, weakness, seizures, cyanosis, coma, and cardiac arrest.”
Cats are especially susceptible to health hazards from e-cigarettes. Propylene Glycol, one of the primary ingredients in the e-cig’s vapor, can lead to “Heinz body,” where the red blood cells become damaged. Cats can ingest this substance by licking or chewing on the device. According to Vetconm.com, Heinz body symptoms include discolored skin, fever, loss of appetite, pale lips and gums, reddish-brown urine.