Playful Puppy Nearly Dies After Ingesting Cigarette

The Details

During The Great American Smokeout®, People Should Also Protect Their Pets

Arizona dust storms can be dangerous, but one recent gust carried something deadly into Corinna Lopez’s backyard – a half-smoked cigarette and butt. Yes, we know cigarettes can be deadly to humans, but in this case the victim was canine. After her four-pound Shih Tzu puppy named Gizmo ingested part of the cigarette, he lost full control of his body movements, vomited and had a seizure.

“One of the neighbors’ discarded cigarettes must have blown into the back yard during a recent dust storm,” Lopez said. “We were training Gizmo to go outside to pee, but when I went to bring him in, I noticed a cigarette butt stuck to his fur. I didn’t see him eat any of it, but after about an hour he became very lethargic and started having a seizure. We rushed him to the veterinarian, who told us that if we hadn’t gotten Gizmo to the hospital right away, he probably wouldn’t have made it. We had no idea that a cigarette butt could be so dangerous to pets.”

It’s November, and once again the Great American Smokeout campaign is reminding people of the dangers of tobacco. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 34 million Americans still smoke cigarettes or use nicotine-infused products, so the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline are reminding pet owners that nicotine and other smoking-related products can also be deadly to animals.

“Gizmo’s potentially deadly cigarette was blown into his back yard during a storm, but many pets encounter tobacco and other nicotine products on a regular basis,” said Dr. Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline. “With so many nicotine products on the market, including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, gums, smokeless tobacco, transdermal patches and insecticidal dusts and sprays, there are many ways our pets can become exposed.”

Signs of poisoning include vomiting, ataxia (the loss of full control of body movements), agitation, lethargy, tremors, tachycardia (fast heart rate), reflex bradycardia (slowed heart rate), hypertension, hypotension, tachypnea (rapid breathing), CNS depression and seizures.

“Very young or very old pets, or those with underlying heart or kidney disease, are more likely to develop clinical signs. Gizmo’s very small size and young age made the risk of poisoning high even with only one half of a cigarette ingested,” Dr. Schmid explained. “Initially, the nicotine will act as a stimulant, but then leads to CNS depression. Another concern is products containing xylitol, like nicotine gum, which can cause hypoglycemia or liver injury.”

Once Gizmo arrived at the Arizona Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Center in Peoria, Arizona, the medical team collaborated with the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline to determine that he was suffering from nicotine exposure. Gizmo was unresponsive when he arrived and in need of immediate life-saving care.  They placed him on IV fluids, antiemetics, anticonvulsants if additional seizures occurred, and methocarbamol for his tremors. After a night of intensive therapy and close observation, Gizmo was able to go home to his family, and is now back to full health.

“If you smoke, please, please, please properly dispose of your cigarette butts,” Lopez added. “And if your pet encounters any tobacco products, call Pet Poison Helpline or get them to the veterinarian immediately. It can save their life.”


About Pet Poison Helpline

Pet Poison Helpline®, your trusted source for toxicology and pet health advice in times of potential emergency, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. We are an independent, nationally recognized animal poison control center triple licensed by the Boards of Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Pharmacy providing unmatched professional leadership and expertise. Our veterinarians and board-certified toxicologists provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $85 per incident includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the case. Based in Minneapolis, Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at