What is E-Cigarette Toxicity?
Each e-cigarette cartridge can contain up to 24 mg of nicotine which in many cases can be fatal to a dog. Ingesting the e-juice is not the only way for the toxins to be absorbed into the body. Absorption through the mucous membranes in the mouth can quickly occur. Symptoms of poisoning can occur within 15 minutes to an hour after ingestion or absorption.
As e-cigarettes increase in popularity, so do the number of poisoning cases in dogs. The flavored solution or e-juice is enticing for dogs but it does contain nicotine, a known toxin to dogs. The thin plastic cartridges make it easy for dogs to chew and ingest not just the solution, but also the plastic cartridge.
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Symptoms of E-Cigarette Toxicity in Dogs
If you suspect that your dog has gotten into e-cigarettes or the e-juice cartridges get to your veterinarian immediately. Effects of e-cigarette poisoning occur quickly and time is of the essence and in cases of severe e-cigarette toxicity, death can occur.
- Excessive drooling
- Abdominal pain
- Agitation or restlessness
- Tremors or twitching
- Increased heart rate
- Erratic heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Cardiac arrest
Causes of E-Cigarette Toxicity in Dogs
An e-cigarette cartridge contains between 6 mg and 24 mg of nicotine, making each cartridge the nicotine equivalent of one to two regular cigarettes. Most people who regularly use e-cigarettes will purchase more than one cartridge at a time. Multi-packs can cause serious harm to dogs that chew on them and ingest the e-juice within them.
Nicotine is extremely toxic to dogs, ingesting the flavored e-juice is the same as ingesting a cigarette and will poison your dog. Your dog can become seriously ill by chewing on a cartridge. Death can possibly occur depending on how much nicotine was ingested by your dog.
Diagnosis of E-Cigarette Toxicity in Dogs
Contact your veterinarian immediately for treatment if you observe your dog chewing on an e-cigarette or the cartridge. Nicotine is absorbed quickly and can be extremely toxic, even in small doses. If possible, take the chewed cartridge with you so your veterinarian can examine it as well.
If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms of e-cigarette toxicity, contact your veterinarian or take your dog to an emergency veterinary clinic for an examination. A differential diagnosis of e-cigarette poisoning can be done by an attending veterinarian based on the symptoms being exhibited.
Bloodwork and urinalysis may be done to evaluate the extent of the toxicity, by allowing the veterinary team to determine the effects of the e-cigarette on your dog’s body.
Treatment of E-Cigarette Toxicity in Dogs
Once it has been determined that nicotine from the e-juice of an e-cigarette cartridge has been ingested, your veterinarian will immediately start supportive care to stabilize your dog and try to minimize the effects of the nicotine poisoning. There is no antidote that can be given for nicotine poisoning. Do not try to treat your dog at home. Waiting to take your dog to a veterinarian can result in death. The prognosis is good if your dog survives the first four hours after ingesting the toxins.
This can include inducing vomiting followed by giving activated charcoal to hopefully stop or reduce further absorption of the toxins. Depending on the severity of the poisoning, your dog may be put on an IV drip to re-hydrate and stimulate renal elimination. Oxygen support may also be given.
Your dog may experience seizures due to the toxins, mild tranquilizers may be used to aid in controlling the symptoms and alleviate strain on the heart and other vital organs. Other medications may be used to support the circulatory system, lower blood pressure and lower fever.
Sometimes the oxygen mask is not sufficient during supportive care. In these instances an oxygen tent is put in place to help your pet have a better oxygen intake. Constant monitoring of your dog’s oxygen intake is required during the critical stages of treatment.
Some or all of these treatments may be employed on your pet, depending on the severity of the poisoning. Remember, there is no antidote so your veterinarian will only be able to treat the symptoms and provide supportive care while the toxins work their way through your dog’s body.
Prevention is the most effective in keeping e-cigarette toxicity to a minimum. As with children and medications, keep known toxins out of reach of your pet. Place cartridges in an upper cabinet or a top shelf, well out of the reach of pets and children to avoid any risk of nicotine poisoning.
Recovery of E-Cigarette Toxicity in Dogs
Treatment responses will vary with the severity of the poisoning. Generally, if your dog responds well to treatment within the first four hours of ingesting the toxins, he is more likely to survive. If your dog has ingested a lethal dose of e-juice, there may only be the option of having your veterinarian provide support in the form of palliative care for your dog, making him as comfortable as possible.