The Dangers of E-Cigs and Vaping for Your Pet

The trend for ‘vaping’ has completely sky-rocketed over the last couple of years;

just about every town and city high street has a vaping lounge or a store selling electronic (“e”) cigarettes and the associated paraphernalia. Currently, the jury is out as to whether vaping is more beneficial than traditional smoking and whether there are long-term health risks attributable to this activity.

So far, the broad consensus is that there are fewer harmful chemicals in vape ‘smoke’; essentially it just contains water vapour and the constituents of the intensely heated oil, liquid, or ‘juice’ – normally Nicotine at whatever percentage concentration, or CBD variants. The carbonisation/burning of Tobacco in traditional smoking releases many more chemicals; many of which we now know to be carcinogenic.

Nicotine is very toxic to your pet and unfortunately, the smaller the bodyweight, the less is needed to cause clinically significant problems. Just 0.5-1mg per 1kg weight is toxic, and 4-5mg per 1kg is considered lethal.

The main danger to your furry family members is the e-liquid itself…….

rather than the vape unit – especially if it is a nicotine containing liquid. It is vitally important, therefore, that these liquids are stored safely and securely away out of any pets’ reach. Cats and dogs are naturally curious and their keen senses of smell will pique their interest in the e-liquid. As we all know, they will lick, chew, eat, or drink pretty much anything! Depending on the strength of the e-liquid, if kitty got hold of it it could literally be the case that ‘curiosity killed the cat’ – not something any of us here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre want to see happen.

Whilst the spotlight is on our Feline companions, I’d like to draw your attention to something that you probably aren’t aware of. Your kitty (like all cats) has a particular sensitivity to a chemical called Propylene Glycol, or PG as it’s known. Why am I telling you this, you ask? Well, PG is a component found in an awful lot of commercial e-liquids and it has been linked in studies to a condition called ’Heinz Body Anaemia’. In a nutshell, this condition means that your cats’ red blood cells have a greatly diminished ability to carry Oxygen around their body. Never a good thing, as I’m sure you realise.


What shall I do if they get hold of it?

Let’s imagine that despite your best efforts, Fido or Kitty have managed to get to your vape liquid – luckily though, you’ve spotted them! What should you do? Firstly, wash any residue off their fur and skin with good old fashioned soap and water (easier said than done with water-phobic cats, I know!), as nicotine is easily absorbed through the skin. Once you’ve done that, and washed any off your own skin, try to rinse their mouths out with water if they’ll tolerate it. Don’t get bitten in the process! I’d really like you to attempt it though – unfortunately nicotine is even more readily absorbed by the oral mucous membranes than it is by the skin.

Symptoms of nicotine poisoning usually begin to be seen within an hour of the animal ingesting it. If your fur-baby has absorbed nicotine into their body you’ll commonly see a lack of co-ordination/tremors/seizures, weakness/lethargy/depression (or conversely, hyperactivity), excessive salivation or drooling, diarrhoea, vomiting, dilated pupils, rapid breathing or breathlessness, and cardiac (heart) arrhythmias.

I’m sure you’re getting the seriousness of nicotine poisoning to your beloved pet, but I am just going to emphasise the point; don’t muck about, if you suspect this has happened get pooch or puss

straight here to SLVC. If you remember (and I appreciate it’s a stressful situation, but please try to), bring the bottle of e-liquid with you; there are different percentage strengths of nicotine, and we need to know what we’re dealing with as soon as possible.

If left untreated, the nicotine poisoning can cause paralysis of the lung muscles, leaving your pet unable to breathe and possibly dying as a result if there is no-one around to perform Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). We all like to think that this will never happen to us, but sadly it does.

A friend of mine knows a case where someone’s dog got into their handbag and got hold of their vial of vape oil.

Their teeth pierced the vial and poochy swallowed some of the contents. It wasn’t long before symptoms manifested; loss of balance, choking, shortness of breath, and then loss of consciousness and cessation of breathing. Luckily a neighbour performed CPR and they got the dog to their local emergency vet who administered medication and monitored the animal overnight. In this instance Fido pulled through, although he does have Liver problems on-going due to the effects of ingesting the vape oil.

I fervently hope that we never have to see your much-loved pet here at SLVC in these circumstances; but if we do, rest assured that I and the rest of the team will be doing our utmost for them. Care and management would routinely include giving emetics (to make them vomit) and activated charcoal to ‘mop up’ as much nicotine left in the stomach as possible to stop further absorption and damage. We would also give them fluids intravenously, as well as drugs to decrease their heart rate and blood pressure if necessary. If your pet was having seizures we would also administer medication to stop this continuing. Close monitoring of their vital signs would continue for as long as needed, and we may sneak in a few cuddles with them where possible – purely to reassure them, you know J.I can’t say it enough; please, please, please take extra care to keep these liquids away from your fur-baby.

Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy 🙂