What happens if my dog eats a cigarette butt? It’s probably no surprise to find that your dog has at some point eaten a cigarette butt from the floor.
Many tobacco products actually have food like smell with many of them tasting like menthol or mint. Still, the real problem arises from the ingredient, nicotine, that is found in many types of tobacco products, and cigarettes.
Nicotine is hazardous to our pets. When a person smokes a cigarette, most of the nicotine has been drawn up into the cigarette filter, so when this butt is discarded on the ground, it has a higher concentration of toxins, up to 25% of the total in the cigarette.
Nicotine is toxic for dogs
If you’ve ever smoked a cigarette yourself, you could have experienced a nauseous feeling after the first puff – this is a direct result of nicotine poisoning. Over time, the human body will build up an immunity to the effects of nicotine, but a dog does not. Just eating one or two butts from a cigarette has the capability of killing a dog! It only needs 5mg of nicotine per 1 pound of the weight of your dog to be poisonous. A cigarette butt can easily contain between 4 and 8 mg of nicotine, and if you own a small dog under 10 pounds in weight, the effect of eating just 2 cigarette butts can be fatal.
Symptoms of Nicotine Poisoning
If you think your dog has eaten a cigarette butt, these are some of the symptoms to look out for. (Remember that other types of poisoning can also have similar symptoms)
• Vomiting and diarrhoea
• Inability to walk, or to stand
• Poor coordination
• Tremors and weakness
• A fast or even a slow heartbeat, or possible cardiac arrhythmia
• High blood pressure
Where will your dog find a cigarette butt?
These cigarette ends are commonly thrown away on the street, in parks, on beaches, and unfortunately casually dropped in many public places, where our pets, other wildlife and in some cases, small children, are exposed to the risk of eating them. Of course, if you’re a smoker, they may be in an ashtray at home, or even in your car. Take care if you take your dog to pub beer gardens too, as many smokers will often distinguish their cigarettes on the grass, leaving the butt behind for your dog to discover.
Be aware too, that nicotine is also found in other stop-smoking aids, such as gum, patches and e-cigarettes that can cause harm if ingested.
How to treat nicotine poisoning
Urgent treatment is required in most cases, so it’s vitally important to get your dog to the Vet as soon as possible. Take along any packaging from the offending toxic product if you know what your dog has swallowed. Your Vet may wash out the dog’s stomach, or induce him to vomit, to remove any nicotine products. Your dog will probably be sedated and medicated, with careful monitoring, usually for several hours. He may give activated charcoal to help with the further absorption of the toxins or place him on an IV drip. Your dog will usually make a full recovery if he survives the first 4-6 hours after ingestion. Nicotine is usually expelled through urination and is metabolised by the liver, so any nicotine in your pet’s body would naturally pass through his system within a 24 hour period.
If you are a smoker
Our domestic pets can develop certain types of cancer, and lung damage, just as humans do when exposed to cigarette smoke in the home environment. Second-hand smoke, the hands and clothes from a smoker, and residual chemicals from cigarettes can all expose your dog to harmful toxins and damage to their health.