Nicotine Poisoning in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Nicotine Poisoning in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Nicotine Poisoning in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Nicotine Poisoning?

Cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco (snuff) are all dangerous to your dog as well as to humans. In fact, even cigarette butts can be deadly to your dog if he eats enough of them. Since it is the filter that holds all of the nicotine, cigarette butts hold just as much nicotine as the whole cigarette, so it is important to pick up cigarette butts and dispose of them in the trash. With the discovery of nicotine gum, electronic cigarettes, and other aids to help people quit smoking, the amount of nicotine poisoning episodes has risen quite a bit. Reports of accidental nicotine poisonings have gone from 269 in 2011 to 1,212 in 2013 according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The variety of flavors and the high content of the drug in e-cigarette liquid are suspected to be the culprits of this resurgence in reported poisonings. It may not help that those who use the e-cigarettes and liquid refills consider them to be relatively safe, leaving them unattended within reach of their dog. Unfortunately, the nicotine is readily absorbed through the skin as well as the lungs and gastrointestinal system, making it a highly toxic product to your dog. Although it may be slowed by the acids in your dog’s stomach, the nicotine will eventually be absorbed by the intestines and liver, making the removal more difficult once it reaches the bloodstream. The kidneys are only able to excrete approximately 2% to 35% depending on the amount of urination. It only takes about four milligrams of nicotine per pound of body weight to be fatal. This means less than a teaspoon of liquid nicotine or one cigarette can be fatal in a small dog, so it is important to go to the veterinarian or animal hospital right away if you believe your dog has ingested any nicotine at all.

Although nicotine is a common cause of toxicity to animals, it is not reported often. However, the central nervous system damage that is caused by nicotine can be extremely serious, and possibly lethal if not treated soon enough. Since the body absorbs nicotine rapidly, within 15 minutes, your dog can have a cardiac episode or collapse. In fact, without treatment, your dog could have complete paralysis of the muscles, including the lungs, causing respiratory failure. Even with a small amount of nicotine, your dog can become ill and vomit, which helps in removing the toxin. However, even if your dog seems better after vomiting, you should visit your veterinarian to check for underlying damage to the heart or central nervous system. Never give your dog antacids to help with poisoning because the acid in the stomach helps slow the absorption of the toxin so it can be evacuated without causing as much damage. Your veterinarian will likely give your dog IV fluids and monitor his heart for a while to be sure he is out of danger.

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Nicotine Poisoning Average Cost

From 45 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$450

Symptoms of Nicotine Poisoning in Dogs

You may not notice a number of signs after your dog ingested nicotine, besides restlessness and stomach upset, which is sometimes mistaken for a virus or other illness. However, if your dog has ingested enough nicotine to cause symptoms, it is likely a life-threatening emergency, and it is important to get your dog to the veterinarian or emergency clinic right away. Signs of nicotine poisoning vary depending on the amount your dog has ingested, but the most common signs are:

  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Auditory and visual disturbances (hallucinations)
  • Collapse
  • Convulsions
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Extreme excitement
  • Drooling (hypersalivation)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Hyperthermia
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Incoordination
  • Paralysis
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Fast heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Tremors
  • Twitching
  • Vomiting
  • Weak and irregular pulse
  • Weakness
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Causes of Nicotine Poisoning in Dogs

The cause of nicotine poisoning in your dog is the ingestion of any of these items that contain nicotine:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • E-cigarettes and e-cigarette liquids and cartridges
  • Hand rolling tobacco
  • Nicotine gum
  • Nicotine lozenges
  • Nicotine mouth sprays
  • Nicotine patches
  • Pipes and pipe tobacco

Your dog can also get nicotine poisoning from breathing or ingesting pesticides that contain nicotine.

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Diagnosis of Nicotine Poisoning in Dogs

Diagnosis of nicotine poisoning can be difficult if you do not know that your dog has ingested nicotine because the symptoms can mimic so many other diseases and disorders. Some of these include intoxication from organophosphates, strychnine, mycotoxins, and depressants. If you did not see your dog ingest the nicotine, but you or a family member have nicotine products, be sure to let the veterinarian know so he can do a quick blood and urine chemical test to determine if that is the problem. The sooner the diagnosis is made, the better, because prompt treatment is essential to your dog’s recovery. The veterinarian will do a complete physical examination to check blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, oxygen level, reflexes, weight, and body temperature. An electrocardiogram (ECG) may be done to assess your dog’s electrical and muscular heart functioning.

Other laboratory tests that can help with diagnosis are complete blood count (CBC), blood gas, blood spectrophotometry (to check the chemical level with light absorption), urinalysis, stool sample, and electrolyte profile. Some images may be needed, such as x-rays, MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound. These can help the veterinarian determine how much of the nicotine has been absorbed, how much remains, and if there is any damage to the vital organs.

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Treatment of Nicotine Poisoning in Dogs

Treatment depends on the amount of nicotine ingested, how long ago it was ingested, and how much still remains unabsorbed. If it has been less than four hours, there is a chance to stop any damage from being done to your dog’s central nervous system, heart, liver, kidneys, and brain. The veterinarian will induce vomiting or perform a gastric lavage to empty the stomach as much as possible before administering activated charcoal. The charcoal actually sticks to the nicotine and keeps it from causing any more damage on its way through your dog’s system. IV fluids and oxygen therapy will be started, medication for blood pressure and seizures can also be given. The veterinarian will keep your dog overnight for observation, continuing to monitor heart activity, blood pressure, and renal activity.

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Worried about the cost of Nicotine Poisoning treatment?

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Recovery of Nicotine Poisoning in Dogs

If your dog gets treatment right away (in less than four hours), the chance for recovery is good. However, if your dog consumed a lethal dose of nicotine, there may be nothing the veterinarian can do except provide palliative care and make your dog as comfortable as possible in the time he has left. You can make sure this never happens again by keeping cigarettes and anything else containing nicotine out of your dog’s reach. This includes ashtrays and cigarette butts as well.

Nicotine poisoning can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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Nicotine Poisoning Average Cost

From 45 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$450

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Nicotine Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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German Shepherd

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Five Years

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4 found helpful

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4 found helpful

Has Symptoms

My two dogs, German Shepard Red Heeler Mix (5) and German Shepard Black Lab Mix (just shy of 2) possibly both ate the nicotine out of a cigar. It would have been 1-2 hours ago but neither of them are showing any symptoms. Should I wait or take them to the vet?

March 25, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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4 Recommendations

Nicotine toxicity is serious and can make a dog very poorly. How sick a dog gets depends on how much they eat. I would advise a vet check and it would be best to bring along a similar cigar so the vet can assess the amount eaten. Wishing your dogs all the very best.

March 25, 2021

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Yorkshire Terrier

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Three Months

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3 found helpful

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3 found helpful

Has Symptoms

My 14 week old puppy had sniffed a cigarette that was on the ground that my uncle had just thrown on the floor there was still smoke coming from the cigarette. After he had sniffed the cigarette he kept kinda sneezing and shaking his head because I’m sure it irritated his nose. I had stepped on the cigarette to put it out after that had happened. I was wondering if there’s something I should do or if he’ll be okay.

Jan. 10, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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3 Recommendations

Cigarettes can be toxic if eaten so please keep them well out of reached. The smoke itself will cause some irritation but should not be harmful. Make sure the room is well ventilated and keep an eye on the pup but we would not expect any issues going forward.

Jan. 10, 2021

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Nicotine Poisoning Average Cost

From 45 quotes ranging from $300 - $3,000

Average Cost

$450

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