Whether cigarettes or e-cigarettes, exposing your animal to the substances they emit can be highly toxic, and in some cases fatal for your pet.

Cigarettes: nicotine poisoning in pets

A few years ago in the UK a 14-week old Staffordshire bull terrier died from acute nicotine poisoning. The puppy had ingested just a tiny amount of its owner's e-cigarette refill. Sadly, it's not the first story of its type.

The owner of the animal quickly noticed the first signs of poisoning: excessive salivation, blue/black tongue, vomiting, and defecation. Other symptoms may also manifest. These include a sudden state of depression, or conversely hyperactivity, a loss of balance, and shivering, among others.

With any poisoning, it is important to respond quickly and take the animal to the vet. A toxic dose of nicotine is about 10mg per kilogram for a dog. Puppies or older dogs are more susceptible. In the case of the puppy above, a lick was enough to be lethal. Warning: do not induce vomiting or drinking as it can make things worse.

Known and unknown additives

Cigarettes and electronic cigarettes often contain known and unknown additives that can be appealing to animals. This is particularly true for curious dogs willing to eat anything. Cats are typically reluctant to try such substances. However, care should be taken around all animals with refills, cigarettes, packets of tobacco and cigarette butts kept well out of reach of animals.

It's important to note that cigarette smoke, first or second hand, is also very harmful to pets. Similar to the impacts on human lungs, it can cause immediate irritation of the respiratory system in animals. As for humans, it can even cause cancer if exposure is frequent. According to one study, a cat is three times more likely to develop lymphoma if their owner is a smoker.

With regard to electronic cigarettes, the effects of passive smoking are not yet known. While initial studies indicate that less nicotine is released when compared to standard cigarettes, it is still highly advisable to keep any form of smoking outdoors and away from pets.

If you smoke, how do manage this with your pet?

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