With the rise of e-cigarettes being used, there has also been a rise of pets being poisoned by them. E-cigarettes are great to reduce second hand smoke instances, but the solutions that are used are extremely toxic to pets and children.
E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that use a cartridge that contains a solution made up of a diluent and nicotine. The nicotine solution is then converted into vapor, that is then inhaled by the user. The danger lies in the cartridge.
Despite dealing with nicotine ingestion cases for years and years with regular cigarettes, the new e-cigarettes pose a bigger problem. The thin plastic cartridges that are easy for a pet to chew, and the flavored “e-juice” solution is a dangerous combination. Couple that with the increase in popularity of e-cigarettes, cases of poisoning have more than doubled. Dogs account for most of the cases, but nicotine is toxic for cats as well.
Each cartridge contains anywhere from 6mg to 24mg of nicotine. Clinical signs can be seen with just 0.5mg per pound of body weight of the pet. Nicotine is highly toxic and makes e-cigarettes a fatal mistake for many pets. The actual e-cigarette can also cause injury to the pet’s mouth, cause stomach upset, or become a foreign body that likely requires surgery to remove.
The “e-juice” solution is quickly absorbed through the mucous membranes in the mouth and signs of nicotine poisoning occur quickly (within 15-60 minutes of ingestion). Immediate signs can include: excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, agitation or restlessness, and increased respiratory rate or panting. These symptoms can progress depending on the amount ingested. Signs of severe poisoning include excitation, disorientation, tremors, twitching, seizures, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and weakness. Cardiac arrest, coma, and death are also possible.
Seek veterinary care immediately if you think your pet has ingested any amount of nicotine. Because nicotine is absorbed quickly and can be toxic in even the smallest amounts, it is imperative that you seek help as quickly as possible. Caring for e-cigarette poisoning at home is not possible, and waiting to get veterinary care can result in death for your pet.
Prevention is the best remedy to this problem. The obvious prevention is to keep cartridges or bottles of the “e-juice” solution out of reach of pets and children. Also keep in mind that if you keep any e-cigarette material in a purse, bag, or on a table, that children and pets can also access those items easily, and it is best practice to keep those well out of reach.