Nicotine in all tobacco products (including cigarette butts, chewing tobacco patches and gum) is highly poisonous to pets when ingested and absorbed into the intestines. The nicotine in just one cigarette can be toxic while consuming two can prove deadly.
With the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, health experts say many users aren’t aware of the health risks liquid nicotine can pose to dogs. What makes it even more dangerous is that the nicotine is frequently flavored and dogs might ingest more than they might other poisonous substances.
“Because they are flavored and taste good, they may be appealing to them and they may ingest enough to really cause some toxicity problems. If a puppy eats as few as two of the little cartridges, it will be enough to cause severe toxicity,” said Dr. Randall Carpenter at Family Friends Veterinarian Hospital in Grand Rapids. (The fact that puppies have indiscriminate eating habits put them at particular risk.)
Dr. Carpenter advises that the best method of prevention is to keep the substance out of reach. “Purses, you got to be careful of because if they are in a purse, a pet is going to be able to, or a child is going to be able to get in the purse and get a hold of these.”
What should you do, should your pet ingest liquid nicotine?
If your pet does ingest liquid nicotine, side effects include vomiting, seizures and an increased heart rate. If a pet ingests enough, it could be fatal. “Most cartridges are either plastic or a fine thin metal. No problem for dogs and even cats to chew through those,” said Dr. Carpenter.
He added that if your pet gets a hold of and ingests liquid nicotine, you should take the animal to a vet immediately. The sooner the product is removed from the pet’s system, the less damage it will cause.
“Time is important. If an animal has ingested liquid nicotine and you do not seek immediate attention, there is a potential for it to be fatal.”
“The problem is in the high concentration of nicotine.”, explains Dr. Lorraine Castrovilly, DVM, at Garrison Animal Hospital. “Nicotine first stimulates the nervous system, which can be a good thing because it usually causes the animal to vomit. However, it then acts like a central nervous system depressant.” “It is a depressant on every level of the nervous system,” she said. “And it has a very narrow margin of safety.”