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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 good 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 danger to your dog. Although it may be slowed by the acids in your dog’s stomach, the absorption 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 if you believe your dog has ingested any nicotine at all.

Although nicotine is a common form of toxin 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.

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 any signs that your dog ingested nicotine besides nervousness 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 will 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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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.

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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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Golden Retriever

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9 months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

My dog ate some of my husband's cigarettes.

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Depending on the weight of your dog, when this happened, and how many cigarettes, this may be a problem. It would be best to call a Pet Poison Hotline 865-764-7661 and give them that information. They will be able to let you know what the next step should be. I hope all goes well.

July 31, 2020

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German Shepherd

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Nine Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None

We left our dog home alone and he got into our garbage and bit open a water bottle that had tabasco spit in it. we aren't sure if he actually tasted or ate anything but it was spilled on the floor when we came home.

July 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It would be best to watch your dog for any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, not eating, hyperactivity, tremors or seizures. If any of those things occur, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian right away for treatment. I hope that all goes well.

July 25, 2020

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Mini Goldendoodle

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Eight Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

Paczki picked up a cigarette butt earlier, but quickly spit it up. She immediately puked after that. Since then, she has puked four more times. She was still in good spirits after there first two, but seems more lethargic now. She can support her weight and is walking around, so she may just be sleepy fr the hour of the day. She was having some digestion issues last week too after getting her influenza booster, so I’m not sure if this is following up from that or from the cigarette but. I’m worried about her!

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello It sounds like she is sick from ingesting the cigarette butt. This can cause vomiting. I recommend that you take her to a veterinarian for an exam. They will want to give her medication to stop the nausea and vomiting. In the meantime, you can try offering her a bland diet (boiled white rice and boiled chicken) in small amounts. Hope she gets to feeling better soon.

July 24, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Nine Months

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

She is vomiting up white foam. Now just coughing and nothing coming up. Pukes water when drinks. Did hold down food this am

July 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. It would be best for your dog to see a vet. We worry about Parvovirus in young dogs who are vomiting. Many times these dogs will need medication to help them feel much better. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 12, 2020

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Daisy

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Beagle

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11 Weeks

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My puppy ate a piece of nicotine gum. I induced vomiting with a lottery peroxide within 15-20 minutes. Should I be worried? She seem fine now being a little more than an hour.

July 6, 2018

Daisy's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Nicotine is readily absorbed by the body especially in the form of gum, however some nicotine gum also contains xylitol which is also toxic for dogs; you should monitor Daisy for any symptoms listed on this page or signs of lethargy (due to xylitol poisoning) but it would be best to visit your Veterinarian for an examination to be on the safe side especially if she didn’t bring up the gum. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 7, 2018

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Rocky

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Boston Terrier

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Hyper

I have a Boston terrier and he is about 2 years old. He ate some hookah flavor. I don’t know exactly how much but this is the second time in a week. He seems pretty hyper than usual, but other than that, he seems fine. The first time he ate hookah flavor was yesterday, and today is the second day. My older brother was being an idiot and left his hookah flavor out and let the dog loose, and he ended up eating some of it. What should I do??

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Zulu

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Labrador Retriever

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My dog ate a nicotine pouch about 30 mins ago and I am seeing no symptoms. She seems fine. I took her outside to see if she would throw up. Should I induce vomiting? It is late at night so I can't take her to the vet.

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Dean

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Mix

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4 Weeks

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

None

Ate pea size amount should I be worried he seems to be doing fine it was a vary small amount he took a bite off the end of a unlit cigarette.

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Ruby

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Jack Russell Terrier

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9 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Seizures

My 9 year old dog sadly passed yesterday last week my mother thought she had seen her having a seizure for a few seconds but I sadly ignored her thinking she was only stretching as my mother only seen her shacking for a few seconds and there was no froth or drooling I know for a fact that my dog had only ever eaten a few cigarette flakes 3 times but hasn’t for about 2-3 months is it possible that was the cause of her death

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Wiki

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Portuguese Podengo

dog-age-icon

11 Weeks

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

No Symptoms

I was walking my 11 week old puppy in my apartment complex playgroud and she picked up a used snuff packet from the ground. It was covered in dirt and was dry and she had it in her mouth for about 10 seconds. Thankfully i managed to get it out of her mouth before she had the chance to swallow it. She ran around after that for another 10 minutes before i took her back inside. Now it has been about 30 minutes since we got back and she is acting fine. She is eating and has drank water. Still i am worried that the snuff packet might have done something to her in the time it was in her mouth. The snuff packet was about 2 cm long and white so very small.

Nicotine Poisoning Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$450

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