Electronic cigarettes such as Vapes and Juuls have gained popularity as a healthier and potentially less expensive alternative to cigarettes, but for our pets, it could pose a greater risk than the classic tobacco.
The toxic compound here is nicotine, which is extracted from tobacco as a highly-concentrated liquid that is then added to some chemicals of negligible toxicity to create e-juice. E-cigarettes contain a cartridge for e-juice that, when heated, becomes the vapor users inhale.
It is this juice (also known as e-liquid or vaping liquid) that can pose such a severe threat to our pets. While a full cartridge of e-juice in a vaping device could contain up to 36 mg of nicotine, a single 30mL (average-sized) bottle of the liquid, at 36mg/mL, will contain 1080 mg of nicotine. To put this in perspective, just 0.5 mg per pound of body weight is enough for cats and dogs to show clinical signs of nicotine poisoning, with lethality starting at 20mg for the smaller animals.
It is important to remain careful if you use e-cigarettes to keep both the e-juice and the vaping device out of your pet’s reach, but also away from the edges of tables or countertops. Beyond the danger of ingestion, nicotine can also be absorbed into your pet’s body through their skin. A spill on their back or beneath their paw could be just as hazardous as lapping it up off the floor.
Because the nicotine in the vaping liquid has already been extracted from the tobacco, it could take as few as 15 minutes for signs of poisoning to begin, whereas they may not begin for a few hours if it had been a cigarette with tobacco that still has to release the nicotine. These symptoms include rapid heart rate, vomiting, muscle tremors and, in the worst cases, stupor, collapse, or coma.
If you suspect your pet has been exposed to this e-juice, it is important that you call Animal Poison Control at (888) 486-4435 and get your pet to a hospital as soon as possible. You can contact our office by calling (925) 443-6000, but if the emergency takes place outside our normal business hours, there is a list on our website of after-hours emergency hospitals to reach out to.
Remember to stay safe and aware when using products that could pose a threat to your furry friends!