What is Tobacco Poisoning?
Tobacco poisoning in dogs is not something to take lightly. While contact with the actual tobacco plant is rare, many dogs have access to human products containing tobacco in their environment. While toxicity signs can be mild, most cases result in severe symptoms and death. Tobacco poisoning can cause your dog to have respiratory and cardiac issues, both things are something you cannot fix or ignore. If your dog ingested something with tobacco in it, get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Veterinary care is mandatory if you want him to survive.
The sale of tobacco products has rules and regulations making accidental ingestion uncommon. If it does happen, it can lead to your dog suffering serious health complications. If you witness your dog ingesting any type of tobacco product, contact your veterinarian immediately.
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Symptoms of Tobacco Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms of tobacco poisoning in dogs develop relatively quickly. Symptoms include
- Abnormal heart rate
- Abnormal respiratory rate
- Uncontrolled urination
- Uncontrolled defecation
Some dogs react to tobacco poisoning by first becoming hyperexcitable and then become depressed. Other dogs become depressed first, and then develop hyperexcitability and agitation. Either way, your dog will need veterinary care as soon as possible.
Tobacco belongs to the Solanaceae family with the scientific genus of Nicotiana. There are over 60 different species of tobacco, all of which are toxic to your dog if he ingests it. The common names the tobacco plant goes by includes tree tobacco, nicotiana, mustard tree, cigarette, cigar, and nicorette (gum, patches, or lozenges). The majority of people know what products contain tobacco, but if unsure, read the product ingredient label.
Causes of Tobacco Poisoning in Dogs
The tobacco plant contains pyridine and piperidine alkaloids. The toxicity of the tobacco plant comes from its production of nicotine. Nicotine acts quickly; symptoms of toxicity can develop within an hour after ingestion. Your dog will have a higher chance of survival the sooner you get him to a veterinarian and the sooner the detoxification process begins.
Diagnosis of Tobacco Poisoning in Dogs
Your veterinarian will begin by performing a physical examination on your dog. This will allow her to assess his symptoms and note any abnormalities of his vitals. If your dog vomits while at the clinic, the veterinarian will examine the contents for any evidence as to what he ingested. If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, a fecal sample may be taken and tests performed to rule out internal parasites or bacterial overgrowth.
Blood work will be performed to give the veterinarian a broad look as to how the internal organs are functioning. A complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel will provide the veterinarian with needed information for proper assessment. A packed cell volume (PCV) may also be performed to determine hydration status. If your veterinarian feels it is necessary, she may also perform a urinalysis for additional evaluation of kidney function.
If your dog is experiencing some type of cardiac depression, the veterinarian may take radiographs to see how the heart looks. She may also perform an ultrasound if she finds anything on the radiograph that requires a different view. An ECG will also be performed for a proper reading of the heart rate and the PRQST waves. The wave that is abnormal will allow the veterinarian to discover exactly how the heart is malfunctioning.
The radiograph, in addition to offering a view of the heart, will also allow for evaluation of the lungs if your dog is experiencing respiratory distress, and a view of the skeletal system to try and find the cause of paralysis. If you believe or witnessed your dog eating this plant or any of the products that contain tobacco, take it with you to the veterinarian clinic. This will allow for proper identification of the plant or product your dog consumed and the toxin it contains.
Treatment of Tobacco Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog is experiencing breathing difficulties, your veterinarian may start your dog on oxygen via flow-by or place him in an oxygen cage. If your dog is experiencing severe difficulties and swelling, the veterinarian may have to intubate him and maintain oxygen administration via intubation until he stabilizes.
If the Tobacco plant causes gastrointestinal upset, your veterinarian may try to induce vomiting in your dog. The natural stomach acid slows absorption of nicotine so if your dog vomits soon after initial ingestion, he may decontaminate himself. Even if your dog does vomit, you should still take him to the veterinarian for proper evaluation. If too much time has passed since the ingestion of the tobacco, your veterinarian may administer activated charcoal. This will bind with and absorb any remainding toxin that has not been absorbed by the body. Additional medications to protect the intestinal lining may also be administered.
If your dog is vomiting and having diarrhea, the veterinarian will begin administration of fluid therapy with electrolytes. This will treat any dehydration and prevent it from becoming more severe. It will also help the body flush the toxin out quicker.
In addition to these supportive therapies, additional medications may be administered to combat other symptoms. For example, if your dog is having seizures, an anti-seizure medication may be given. Additional administration of medications will be determined by your veterinarian.
Your dog will be kept on monitoring equipment until his heart returns to its normal function. The monitoring equipment will give constant readings of the heart beat and therefore the veterinarian will know exactly how the heart is functioning. This will provide the veterinarian with a constant display of his vitals, including his pulse, and will allow for quick intervention if his heart rate were to suddenly change.
Recovery of Tobacco Poisoning in Dogs
Toxicity from the tobacco plant may be considered moderate to severe. If you believe your pet has ingested tobacco, or you witness your dog consuming anything with tobacco in it, get him to a veterinarian immediately. If your dog vomits the product up within a short time of ingestion, his chance of a full recovery is good. However, if the tobacco stays in your dog’s system, or if he develops the more severe symptoms of toxicity, his prognosis for a full recovery greatly declines.
Whether your dog vomits up the tobacco or not, you should still take him to a veterinarian as quickly as you can. Supportive therapies, such as fluids, are usually given to ensure the entire toxin gets flushed from his system.
Many people who use tobacco products do not realize the harm it can cause to their dog if he ingests it. Keep tobacco products out of the reach of your dog. Keep all products at a height your dog cannot reach, even when standing on his hind legs. The tobacco plant is not found natively in many areas so poisoning by the tobacco plant itself is unlikely.