NICOTINE POISONING IN PETS
NICOTINE POISONING IN PETS
Everyone knows the Surgeon General’s warning about cigarette smoking but what about cigarette eating? Nicotine poisoning is a very real concern anywhere that a pet may find cigarettes, cigarette butts, chewing tobacco, or even nicotine gum, patches, or e-cigarettes. Dogs, particularly puppies, tend to chew things up first and ask questions later. Cats may find a cigarette butt to be a nicely sized pouncing toy worthy of chewing.
Some good news is that nicotine is not absorbed directly in the acid environment of the stomach; the nicotine must move past the stomach into the small intestine for absorption. One of the first things nicotine does in the body is stimulate the vomit center of the brain, thus inducing vomiting which may save the patient’s life if there is more cigarette material in the stomach.
SYMPTOMS OF NICOTINE POISONING
Signs begin as quickly as one hour post-ingestion. Symptoms include:
It is easy to confuse nicotine poisoning with other poisonings such as strychnine, chocolate, organophosphate insecticide, and certain molds. Hopefully, there will be cigarette materials in the vomit to give away the diagnosis. It is also worth mentioning that some nicotine gums contain xylitol as a sweetener. This material is toxic to dogs and can add an entirely new dimension to nicotine poisoning.
If not too much time (an hour or so) has passed since consumption of the nicotine product, vomiting can be induced. Washing out the stomach to get rid of any remaining cigarette materials is helpful but is likely to require sedation as well as activated charcoal to bind the nicotine and prevent it from entering the body. Obviously this would be performed at the veterinarian's office.
Treatment is basically supportive after that. Intravenous fluids support circulation while the body gets rid of the nicotine. If seizures or tremors are occurring, medications will be needed to suppress them. If the pet survives the first 4 hours, prognosis is felt to be good. Nicotine is inactivated by a healthy liver and its metabolites are excreted in urine. After 16 hours, the nicotine ingested should be gone.
If your pet has a HomeAgain microchip, free poison control consultation is included in the full service registration. Call 1-888-HomeAgain and select the option for “emergency” and you will be connected to National Animal Poison Control. They will need your pet’s microchip number.
If your pet has some other brand of microchip or a basic HomeAgain registration, you can get a full service membership for under $20 by calling 1-888-HomeAgain and then you can get a poison control consultation at no additional charge as part of the full service membership.
Page last updated: 2/26/2022