Dear Daisy Dog: We’re thinking of encouraging our teenage son to switch from standard cigarettes to an e-cigarette, in part because our dog was poisoned when he ate a cigarette butt and we think the e-cigarette will be safer if our son leaves it around. Is this assumption correct?
Daisy Responds: Sadly, no. Nicotine, whether in an electronic cigarette, a traditional cigarette, chewing tobacco, a patch or gum, is toxic to dogs. E-cigarettes are especially risky for several reasons.
First, e-cigarette liquids are often scented and flavored, making them attractive to dogs. Even devices that are childproof can be chewed open by a dog.
E-cigarettes contain liquid nicotine, which is absorbed rapidly. Toxic signs appear within 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion, giving you little time to get to the veterinarian.
Moreover, the concentration of nicotine is high, from one to 10 percent, so even a small amount is a large dose.
The liquid “vehicles” that carry the nicotine are usually propylene glycol and glycerin, which are relatively safe, but some e-cigarettes contain diethylene glycol, which damages dogs’ kidneys.
The e-cigarette refill bottle is even more hazardous than a single device because it contains such a large quantity of nicotine. The liquid is toxic when absorbed through the gums or skin, which can occur if some is spilled while refilling the e-cigarette and your dog walks through it and licks his paws.
Nicotine poisoning causes drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excitation, and rapid heart rate and breathing, followed by muscle weakness, twitching, seizures, cardiac arrest, coma and death.
The best way to protect your dog is to encourage your son to give up all nicotine-containing products and ask his friends not to bring them into your home.