This alternative to cigarette smoking is growing in popularity and, as it does, so do health concerns regarding pets.
Electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but the liquid that is vaporized does contain nicotine. There are several reasons why you should be sure to keep these out of the reach of your pets.
The first concern is the nicotine content of e-cigarettes. Dogs (and less likely) cats may decide to chew up the device or the refill solutions and ingest a toxic dose of nicotine. If you use flavored e-cigarettes, they may be even more desirable for the curious dog.
One cartridge contains the same amount of nicotine as one or two cigarettes. This is enough to cause illness in a 50-pound dog or death in a 10-pound dog.
If your dog eats a package containing multiple cartridges, the risks increase exponentially. If your dog should get hold of a vial of refill solution, he will ingest even more nicotine.
Nicotine overdose is known to cause symptoms whether from gum, conventional cigarettes or e-cigarettes. Symptoms will depend on the amount consumed, but hyperactivity, panting, salivation, runny eyes and gastrointestinal upset are common. Higher doses have the opposite effect on the heart and nervous system, resulting in slow heart rate, weakness, coma and death.
The nicotine in e-cigarettes may be faster absorbed by the dog’s intestinal tract than if a conventional cigarette was swallowed since it is in liquid form. There is not a lot of time to call poison control and get your dog to your veterinarian for emergency treatment as symptoms will be seen between 15 and 60 minutes after eating the nicotine.
The second concern is the chemicals in the liquid of the cartridge. Some may use propylene glycol as the vehicle, and others use glycerin. Propylene glycol is toxic to cats — but generally only if it is consumed, not simply inhaled as it would be from the secondhand vapor produced by the e-cigarette. Some products may use diethylene glycol, which can be more toxic to animals.
A third concern may be the presence of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, that is formed as a result of heating propylene glycol during the vaping process. Laboratory experiments showing the production of formaldehyde have been refuted by proponents of vaping, saying the way e-cigarettes are smoked is different than the testing methods used in the laboratory.
As with any toxin, e-cigarettes, cartridges and refilling solution should always be kept out of the reach of pets and children to avoid a potentially fatal accident.