With the increased popularity of the e-cigarette as an alternative to the more popular and conventional cigarette, there has also come an increase in the number of hospital admissions to many
veterinary emergency clinics. E-cigarette ingestion/exposure poses a serious risk to pets. The primary concern with the ingestion of e-cigarettes has to do with the ingestion of its ingredient, nicotine.
In addition to the increased nicotine content of these products, vials of liquid nicotine, call “e-juice”, are often available to refill cartridges. Moreover, pre-filled cartridges are often sold in packs containing up to 20 or more individual cartridges. This added danger makes intoxication almost guaranteed, whereby pets are likely to show severe clinical signs up to and even including death. According to Pet Poison Helpline, a 50 pound dog ingesting a single cartridge will often show clinical signs up to and even including death.
The diagnosis is often only made possible by a history inclusive of exposure of nicotine and is often suggested by the combination of clinical signs with their acute onset. Bloodwork is often non-specific.
Clinical signs are vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, weakness, and seizures, in as little as 15 minutes. Cardiac arrest and even death is observed as well.
Although there is no specific antagonist treatment for nicotine intoxication, treatment is aimed at controlling signs of respiratory distress, cardiac arrhythmias, cardiovascular collapse, shock, and general supportive care with intravenous fluids, gastro-protectants, anti-emetics, and oxygen therapy.
If a known ingestion occurs, immediate veterinary care is recommended.
Taken from Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners winter 2016 newsletter