By this point, we all know that nicotine is unhealthy for us. The same is true for our pets.
For years, veterinarians have been treating pets that have ingested all manner of traditional nicotine products. However, as the popularity of e-cigarettes continues to rise, veterinarians are seeing drastically increased instances of nicotine toxicity in pets.
E-cigarettes work by atomizing nicotine-containing liquid, turning it into an inhalable vapor. Dogs and cats are attracted to the scents produced by the battery-operated devices, which now come in every imaginable aromatic variety.
Cats are especially vulnerable to poisoning by propylene glycol, a key ingredient in e-cig vapor. Excessive consumption of propylene glycol can lead to a type of anemia called "Heinz body." Symptoms of the condition include fever, weakness, loss of appetite, skin discoloration, pale gums, and in the most severe cases, reddish brown urine.
According to Dr. Ahna Brutlag, DVM, DABT, DABVT of the Pet Poison Helpline, there is between 6-24 mg. of nicotine in every e-cig cartridge, and these cartridges pose the most danger to pets via ingestion.
"Each cartridge contains the nicotine equivalent of one to two traditional cigarettes. 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," Brutlag says.
Pet Poison Helpline notes that a 50-pound dog can show clinical symptoms after ingesting just one e-cig cartridge. The same amount can potentially be lethal for a smaller dog. Moreover, the more cartridges a pet ingests, the more dangerous the consequences.
Symptoms of nicotine toxicity in dogs and cats include but are not limited to: vomiting, diarrhea, elevated heart rate, respiratory distress, weakness, incoordination, seizures, coma, and cardiac arrest.
Obviously, not using nicotine at all is the number one preventive measure against nicotine toxicity in pets. However, for consumers of e-cigs and other nicotine products, prevention is best achieved through common sense measures, such as storing any and all nicotine products well out of the reach of the household's dogs and cats.
Any pet owner who suspects his or her pet might be suffering from nicotine toxicity needs to seek emergency veterinary care. Getting your dog or cat to the vet immediately can mean the difference between life and death.
Want to learn more about nicotine toxicity in pets? Read all about it here.