The World Health Organization has reported that tobacco is one of the biggest public health threats facing the world right now. This can be as true for pets as it is for humans. By far, the most popular tobacco product is cigarettes, but there are other forms as well. Cigars, chewing tobacco, smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco, and many others. Because dogs are ever curious, they are likely to get their mouths into all sorts of tasty and distasteful stuff, even tobacco. If your dog eats tobacco, nicotine is the toxic ingredient you should be most worried about. Its negative effects on humans are numerous, even more so for our furry companions. Unfortunately, pets do not have the same threshold for tobacco and nicotine-containing products as humans do. A stimulating dose of tobacco for a human could spell doom for a dog.
What Makes Tobacco Toxic?
According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco smoke contains over 70 types of carcinogens. This data alone is worrying, but tobacco can be just as harmful even without smoking. Nicotine, the active compound in tobacco and tobacco products, is a fast-acting drug that affects the central nervous system. If your dog ate tobacco, it might experience nicotine’s effect within one hour of ingestion. The intestines and mucous membranes absorb it, and it gets even more difficult to get rid of once it reaches the bloodstream. Even with ample hydration, the dog’s kidney can only expel 2-35% of the total nicotine ingested; this makes the effect even more pronounced.
To illustrate, a dosage of 4mg of nicotine per pound of body weight is considered fatal to dogs. However, a single cigarette contains 10-30mg of nicotine, which means it will take barely 16 cigarettes to potentially kill a 60-pound Golden Retriever. This holds for other forms of tobacco as well. It’s not as much the tobacco product as the quantity of nicotine in it.
Symptoms Of Tobacco Poisoning
The clinical symptoms of tobacco toxicity are varied and lengthy. Some signs can be visible, while others are psychological and unnoticeable. They include:
- High blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Weak pulse
- Dilated pupils
Treatment Of Tobacco Toxicity
Naturally, the acid in the stomach slows down the absorption of nicotine. Therefore, giving your dog antacids is counterproductive as it reduces stomach acidity. Depending on the quantity of nicotine ingested and how long since it has been consumed, your dog can still be made stable before there is irreversible damage to the central nervous system, liver, heart, and kidneys. Your veterinarian may have to induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to stop further absorption of nicotine from the stomach. Also, your veterinarian will likely prescribe IV fluids to aid excretion and stabilization.
Nicotine toxicity is time-sensitive, so trust the experts and contact your vet and Pet Poison Helpline® at (855) 764-7661 for first-aid measures if your dog has ingested any tobacco product.