Nicotine Poisoning In Canines

by Nancy Boland

Nicotine is a toxic substance that we are all well aware of. Even if you do not smoke and smoking is banned in your household, there is still a very real possibility that dogs may come into contact with products containing nicotine outside of the house.

So, how great is the risk of nicotine poisoning in pets, and what can you do about it?

nicotine poisoning

What products contain nicotine?

Nicotine can be found in varying quantities in a wide variety of products related to smoking, some of which you might not be aware of, others may be completely obvious, including;

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Pipes and pipe tobacco
  • Tobacco
  • E-cigarettes
  • Nicotine patches/gum/sprays

How likely are dogs to consume nicotine?

Fortunately, dogs are unlikely to want to eat a cigarette or anything else containing actual tobacco, as tobacco tastes highly unpalatable to dogs. However, many stop-smoking aids such as those listed above are sweetened and flavoured, making them more appealing to your dog. Even if they don’t mean to purposely consume the tobacco, many dogs are scavengers by nature and pick things up from the floor, often eating anything they can find, so there is the risk of nicotine ingestion by this means.

How much is a problem?

Obviously, no nicotine at all is best. Nicotine toxicity occurs in dogs with a dose of around .5 to 1mg of nicotine per lb of bodyweight, and a fatal dose is considered to be 4mg of nicotine per lb of bodyweight.

The nicotine content of the average cigarette varies between around 8mg and 30mg, and this figure will be higher for cigars. Nicotine gum usually contains between 2mg and 5mg per piece, while a small bottle of e-cigarette nicotine liquid can contain anything from 6mg to 34mg of nicotine.

While passive smoking affects pets just as it does people, and can lead to a range of health complications of its own, passively inhaling nicotine is not immediately toxic to dogs.

Symptoms of nicotine poisoning

Nicotine poisoning is relatively quick in onset, and will usually show symptoms as soon as one hour after nicotine consumption.

Symptoms of nicotine poisoning in pets include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Constricted pupils
  • Hysteria
  • Body tremors
  • Drooling
  • Sickness, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • High blood pressure

Treating nicotine poisoning

Take your pet to the vet as a matter of urgency, as fast treatment is required in cases of nicotine poisoning.

Your vet may induce vomiting or wash out the stomach to remove any remaining nicotine, Generally, if the dog survives for the first four to six hours after ingestion, a full recovery is expected. Nicotine is metabolised in the liver and passed out of the body through urination, so within 24 hours, any nicotine within the system should have passed through the body naturally.

Make sure any nicotine products are out of the reach of any curious noses, and do not smoke around your dogs, so that both their short term and long-term health can be maintained.

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