In 2014, 14-week-old staffie Ivy ingested a tiny amount of her owner’s e-juice. Despite him rushing her to a vet within minutes, she was unable to pull through and passed away a few hours later. The cause of death? Nicotine poisoning.
Ivy didn’t drink the liquid, she simply pierced its container with her teeth. If such a small amount of nicotine ingested can cause such damage, then can we be sure that nicotine inhaled by pets from their owners’ second-hand vapor is not harmful?
Read on to find out:
- Is e-cigarette vapor harmful to pets?
- How to keep your pet safe if you’re a vaper
- What are the symptoms of nicotine poisoning in pets?
- What to do if you suspect your pet has nicotine poisoning?
Is e-cigarette vapor harmful to pets?
E-cigarette retailers say that vaping is only dangerous for pets if they ingest e-juice. However, according to the principles of toxicology, any poisonous compound is harmful in large amounts, and the definition of ‘large amounts’ is relative to the size of the organism ingesting the toxic substance.
So, can we be certain that the amount of nicotine in second-hand vapor is not harmful to pets?
Even though studies are not unanimous, the prevailing sentiment is that e-cigarettes are less harmful than normal cigarettes. That said, e-cigarettes haven’t been around for long enough to allow us to objectively evaluate the long-term effects of second-hand vapor on people and pet health. After all, when smoking was first growing in popularity in the 40s and 50s, even medical doctors endorsed it by often appearing in cigarettes ads.
Regardless of the lack of scientific proof that e-cigarettes vapor is harmful for pets, we should remember that nicotine is a poison and despite the delivery system – ingested or inhaled – large amounts of it can be toxic; and for a small animal, a very small amount can be enough to cause harm.
How to keep your pet safe if you’re a vaper
First and foremost, always keep your e-cigarette items, eg e-juice cartridges, somewhere your pets can’t find them. Remember that even the smallest drop of e-juice can be toxic to your pet, so don't refill your e-cigarette or change its cartridge when your pets are around. And never charge your e-cigarette somewhere you pets can find it.
Try to vape when you're pets are not around, and if you really can’t get away and must vape in their presence, try to do it near a window and don’t exhale the vapor in their direction.
Dogs are attracted to the smell and tend to chase after the clouds of vapor released. Cats have a well-known intolerance to PG or propylene glycol, a substance often used in certain types of e-cigarette liquid. PG can cause severe anaemia in cats, so if you have a cat, go for VG e-juice if you can.
What are the symptoms of nicotine poisoning in pets?
- Abnormal heart rate
Nicotine acts quickly, so if your pet is ever poisoned by nicotine, you will observe one, or more, of the above symptoms within an hour. The symptoms may be mild to severe, depending on the dose inhaled or ingested.
What to do if you suspect your pet has nicotine poisoning?
Call your vet or an emergency veterinary clinic. If both of those are out of reach, take your pet to the nearest veterinary surgery.
If your pet has ingested e-juice and has an upset stomach, avoid giving him or her antacids as they might exacerbate the toxic effects of the nicotine.
A lot of people swear by the harmlessness of e-cigarettes, while just as many are concerned that the vapor released during vaping contains enough toxic substances to harm human and pet health. A 2015 press release by the department of Public Health in England deemed e-cigarettes 95% less harmful than smoking but many experts disagree.
As to the validity of both opinions – the jury is out. But, if you are of the ‘better-safe-than-sorry’ school of thought you might feel compelled to reconsider vaping in the presence of your pets, purely for the peace of mind of knowing that your furry companions are safe and sound.