We all know that smoking is harmful for humans. However, you may not know that nicotine, which is contained in tobacco products and insecticides, is very toxic to dogs and cats. Nicotine is found in all tobacco products including cigarettes, cigarette butts, chewing tobacco, cigars, insecticides and nicotine gums, patches, and inhalers. Nicotine is a nervous system stimulant that can cause serious and potentially fatal symptoms in your pets.
When a pet becomes sick from nicotine it is called nicotine toxicosis. To prevent nicotine toxicosis it is important to consider the ways that pets might ingest nicotine. If there is a tobacco user in your household there is the possibility that your pet could ingest the tobacco products.
What if there isn’t a tobacco user in my household?
Unfortunately, people litter the streets, sidewalks, and parks with cigarette butts. Cigarette butts also contain nicotine. Watch your dog or cat to be sure they are not ingesting cigarette butts while outside.
Nicotine is also used in pesticides. Pay attention to those little flags stuck in the grass and make sure your pets (and family!) stay off of that grass. You don’t want the pesticide residue getting onto your pet’s fur or paws where they will be able to lick it off.
Clinical signs of nicotine toxicosis depend on the dose of nicotine ingested.
Signs may appear within 1 hour after the nicotine was ingested. A lethal amount of nicotine ranges from 20-100mg or 1-5 cigarettes or 1/5 of a cigar. However, the lethal amount will vary depending on your specific pet, so it’s best to completely prevent ingestion of nicotine!
Nicotine stimulates the nervous system, which can cause these symptoms: excitement, tremors, auditory and visual abnormalities, loss of coordination, weakness, twitching and convulsions. The symptoms may intensify to include depression, paralysis, respiratory arrest, and death. The severity of the symptoms depends on the amount of nicotine consumed.
If you suspect that your pet has ingested ANY nicotine go to the veterinarian immediately.
Source: “The Dangers of Nicotine Ingestion in Dogs.” Nicole C. Hackendahl, DVM and Colin W. Sereda, DVM. Veterinary Medicine – March 2004.
Jennifer Kean is a writer and pet-lover who owns two rescue kittens (lifetime cat owner too!) and has a 40 gallon fish tank!