February 27, 2014

E-cigarettes seem to be becoming as common as conventional cigarettes these days. Initially developed to help nicotine addicts kick their habit, the dramatic increase in their use has opened a widescale debate about their safety in the human population. The debate includes concerns about other toxins in the vapour, variations in nicotine dosing, harm caused by secondary inhalation of the vapour and the possibility that children might bypass conventional cigarettes but become addicted to nicotine by taking up an E-cigarette habit.


I was struck the other day by reports of a new E-cigarette concern – that of potential poisoning risk to pets.


The recent reports concern a puppy in Cornwall who chewed on an E-cigarette and received a lethal dose of nicotine. This is a tragic case and very worrying when you consider how many people are now using e-cigarettes. Nicotine poisoning acts very quickly and can be fatal, especially when large doses are involved. E-cigarettes and refills can easily contain sufficient quantities of nicotine to kill a small animal very quickly.


The initial symptoms are mainly due to stimulatory effects and include nausea and vomiting, excessive salivation, abdominal pain, pallor, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, tremor, headache, dizziness, muscle twitches, and seizures. After the initial stimulatory phase, the signs may include symptoms of low blood pressure and low heart rates, central nervous system depression, coma, muscular weakness and paralysis, with difficulty breathing or respiratory failure.


The two factors that determine the likelihood of survival are the amount of nicotine ingested and the speed with which Veterinary treatment is sought.


If you use e-cigarettes, I would recommend storing all equipment safely out of reach of your pet. If you suspect your pet has chewed or eaten an e-cigarette or any toxic substance then it is vital that you contact a vet for treatment as quickly as possible.


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