Nicotine Poisoning In Pets

Last week we discussed the dangers of secondhand smoke to pets and people.

Nicotine can be deadly when ingested by our pets.

Today we will delve into poisoning that can occur from tobacco.

Never mind that your pet neither smokes nor dips. If he gains access to tobacco products and ingests them, the results can be deadly.

Sources through which curious pets (or children) might become poisoned include nicotine patches and pills, cigarette butts, cigarette filters, cigar butts, ashes from a pipe and expectorated chewing tobacco or snuff.

Signs to look for if you suspect your pet has ingested tobacco include vomiting and diarrhea, trembling, shaking, salivating and miosis (small pupils). More extreme signs include hyperactivity, fast heart rate, increased blood pressure (which eventually yields to circulatory collapse), seizures, and death.

Board-certified veterinary practitioner Dr. Wendy Brooks, DAVBP,

Board-certified veterinary practitioner Dr. Wendy Brooks, DAVBP

says that the prognosis improves if the patient survives the first four hours.

Nicotine is absorbed poorly from the stomach, but easily from the small intestine. Therefore, inducing vomiting promptly may minimize your pet’s risk of complications. Antacids are to be avoided, as the acidic environment of the stomach is his best weapon against absorption. Fortunately, the very presence of nicotine in the bloodstream may result in vomiting through a central (brain) mechanism.

However, nicotine poisoning is an emergency. Induce vomiting at home if can do so quickly, but don’t dawdle, as arrival for emergency treatment is your first priority.

As little as 0.5 mg of nicotine per pound of body weight can make your pet ill. Eight times that amount, 4 mg per pound of body weight can be fatal. Dr. Brooks puts it this way, “A 40-pound dog would get very sick eating one whole cigarette but would need eleven cigarettes to die from nicotine poisoning.”

Still, don’t be fooled by those numbers. As a cigarette is smoked, tar, nicotine and other byproducts are concentrated in the butt and filter. Eating the contents of an ash tray emptied inappropriately could just as easily be fatal.

See you next week, Dr. Randolph.

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