Q: A friend of mine was talking about their Lab chewing on their e-cig and thought it was cute. I was afraid it might hurt him. Can you tell us more? P.R., Farragut
A: You are correct — electronic cigarettes (“e-cigs”) can be very dangerous for pets. There are several different chemical compounds present in these products, but nicotine is the one that we are most worried about in our pets.
Although the nicotine-free variety is available, most e-cigs are not, and some contain enough nicotine to be fatal for a small dog or cat. The e-liquid refill bottles contain even more nicotine, thus even more dangerous.
It is important to realize that the nicotine can be ingested or absorbed through the skin.
Imagine if your dog chews up the e-cig and doesn’t like the taste. When the cartridge bursts, it can be absorbed through the gums. If the e-liquid spills all over the floor, and your pet should walk through the spill, it can also be absorbed through the pads in their feet.
Signs of toxicity can be noticed in as little as 15 to 20 minutes. Prompt veterinary care is very important. Early signs might not be too alarming, such as excessive drooling or restlessness. With larger amounts of nicotine, signs can quickly progress to vomiting, diarrhea, heart arrhythmias, seizures — and even death.
Please protect your pet by storing e-cigarettes and refill bottles in areas where your pets cannot access them.
If you have more questions about your pet, e-mail Dr. Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org