March 21, 2018

Keep Your Pets Safe: E-Cigarettes and Pets Don’t Mix

a dog at the vet

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) wants to help you keep your pet safe from toxins, and as new technologies and trends arise, they can bring with them new dangers for your four-legged friends. One of the newer toxins APCC has been receiving calls about involves e-cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes—those battery-powered devices that simulate smoking—and the liquid nicotine used with them can pose a serious danger to your pet. As these smoking devices gain popularity, we want to make sure you know everything you need to know to protect your pets. 

Liquid nicotine from electronic cigarettes can cause several concerns if ingested by pets. Most often, gastrointestinal upset may be seen, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and drooling. In more severe cases, hyper-excitability, muscle tremors, increased heart rate that can lead to weakness, seizures, low blood pressure and difficulty breathing can occur.  

While nicotine toxicity is not new (cigarettes, nicotine patches and nicotine gum also pose a risk), there are some factors that make e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine different:

  • Liquid nicotine can potentially contain a high nicotine concentration of 1 to 10 percent.
  • The product may not be labeled clearly, making it difficult to determine what’s in it.
  • The fact that the nicotine is in liquid form means that absorption of the toxins will occur more quickly and have faster onset of signs.
  • While many times the chemically inactive ingredients are considered to be safe, there have been reports that some of them contain diethylene glycol, a toxin that can cause acidosis (a condition in which too much acid accumulates in the body) and kidney injury.
  • Products may be flavored with an enticing flavor and scent, such as milkshake or chocolate, making them more attractive to pets.

Dangerous liquid nicotine is not the only concern when it comes to e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes also contain a small, easily ingested, battery inside to power them. If ingested, this battery may cause burns to the mouth, throat or stomach.  

Some manufacturers are making the packaging on these items child-proof, and while this may deter some pets, child-proof does not always mean pet-proof. If you have e-cigarettes and pets in your home, it is best to keep the e-cigarettes and any related paraphernalia in a secured location your pets cannot reach.  

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any product with nicotine or batteries, contact your veterinarian or call Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at 888-426-4435 immediately.