More and more people are giving up smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. Some have quit nicotine altogether, while others replace the habit with nicotine gum or patches. Many in stead prefer electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. E-Cigarettes have 3 parts: a cartridge with liquid that contains nicotine, possibly artificial flavors, and other chemicals, a battery that powers the e-cigarette, and an atomizer that turns the liquid in the cartridge into a vapor.
The batteries can be dangerous for a dog or cat to try to eat, of course. It is certainly not food and has chemicals inside that can do damage to the mouth if your pet bites into it. Likewise, the cartridge with nicotine is very dangerous for pets, potentially even fatal. Nicotine is toxic to pets, and as bad as tobacco cigarettes are for pets who eat them, e-cigarettes are even worse. Since the nicotine is meant to be absorbed slowly over time in a vapor form, the liquid has a very high concentration of nicotine.
The e-cigarette liquid concentration can be as high as 1-10%. The liquid can be absorbed faster than ingested tobacco, leaving less time before the onset of signs of nicotine toxicity and less time for decontamination efforts. Often, users of e-cigarettes may also have larger containers of a refill liquid, making it possible for pets to ingest even more dangerous quantities of nicotine. In addition, e-cigarette liquids often have flavors like chocolate, vanilla, coffee, or mint that could make them even more enticing for a pet.
If you or someone in your household has e-cigarettes, be extremely cautious about potential exposure to dogs and cats. It takes very little time to turn an encounter into an emergency. Be aware of these clinical signs:
- high heart rates
- tremors and seizures
- muscular weakness