Nicotine poisoning can be a real concern for our pets. With so many nicotine products on the market such as cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, gums, smokeless tobacco, transdermal patches, and insecticidal dusts or sprays, there are so many ways a beloved pet can become exposed! Fortunately, most tend to have a less than appealing taste, but that is not always enough to prevent an ingestion.
Signs of poisoning may occur with any amount of nicotine but become more severe with larger ingestions. Pets that are very young, very old, and those with underlying heart or kidney disease are more prone to developing clinical signs. Initially the nicotine can act as a stimulant, but then lead to central nervous system depression. There may also be a concern for hypoglycemia or liver injury if the product has xylitol listed in the ingredients.
Some Signs of Nicotine Poisoning:
- Ataxia (impaired coordination)
- Agitation or lethargy
- Tachycardia (fast heart rate) or reflex bradycardia (slowed heart rate)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Tachypnea (rapid breathing)
- Central nervous system depression
- Seizures (rare)
Due to the rapid onset of clinical signs with nicotine, it is typically not advised to induce vomiting unless it can be immediately performed after a witnessed ingestion. Many pets may even vomit on their own. Additional therapy may be performed by your veterinarian if a large amount of solid nicotine product was ingested.
Treatment can vary depending on the clinical signs your pet is exhibiting, but may include fluid therapy, anti-nausea medication, sedation, blood pressure and ECG monitoring, or additional supportive care. Low-dose ingestions generally have an excellent outcome. However, prognosis for high-dose ingestions is poor unless treatment is initiated early. It is vital to seek guidance from your veterinarian if a witnessed or suspected ingestion has occurred.
If your pet consumes any product containing nicotine, it should be treated urgently. Immediately contact a veterinarian and Pet Poison Helpline to ensure the best outcome for your pet.