National Poison Prevention Week: E-cigarettes harming pets

CHICAGO – National Poison Prevention week starts Sunday, and doctors from BluePearl Veterinary Partners are using the occasion to raise awareness about the rapidly growing number of pets poisoned by e-cigarettes.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, there was a 400 percent increase in the number of e-cigarette pet poisonings reported in 2015 compared to 2013, the first year the organization started tracking such cases.

“As more people use e-cigarettes, we’ve seen a dramatic jump,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, senior veterinary toxicologist at the Pet Poison Helpline. “People don’t realize how potent those little bottles of liquid nicotine can be.”

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that atomize liquid containing nicotine, turning it into a vapor that can be inhaled.  The smell of the liquid nicotine can be attractive to dogs, particularly if the solution is flavored.

The liquid nicotine is highly toxic to pets and can be deadly in sufficient doses. The poison works quickly, with symptoms typically appearing within 15-60 minutes. These include vomiting,

Lucy (photo courtesy of Matt Harker)

Lucy (photo courtesy of Matt Harker)

diarrhea, agitation, rapid breathing and heart rate – even seizures or collapse.

Matt Harker discovered that the hard way after his 1-year-old pit bull mix Lucy got into a bottle of liquid nicotine refill solution. A call to the Pet Poison Helpline confirmed Lucy could have ingested a potentially lethal amount of the substance, so Harker rushed his pup to the BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Elk Grove Village just outside Chicago, which is open 24-hours each day.

At BluePearl, Lucy was treated by Dr. Breanna Erwin, who induced vomiting and gave the pup anti-nausea medication. After monitoring her for additional symptoms overnight, Lucy was judged well enough to go home the next day.

“Thankfully, this situation worked out for the best,” Erwin said. “By immediately seeking veterinary care, Lucy’s owner substantially improved her chances for a full recovery.”

National Poison Prevention Week starts Sunday, March 20 and runs through Saturday, March 26. The purpose of the annual event is to create awareness and prevent injury or death due to poisoning.

Veterinarians from BluePearl and the Pet Poison Helpline offer the following tips to keep your pets safe from e-cigarettes:

  • Keep e-cigarettes, cartridges and bottles of refill solution far away from pets. If possible, keep them locked in a metal box.
  • Pets love to dig in purses, so be particularly aware if you or others in your home tend to keep e-cigarettes in a purse.
  • If you suspect a pet has ingested liquid nicotine, don’t try to treat him at home. Immediately seek out emergency veterinary care. Most BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospitals are open around the clock for emergency needs, and all employ highly trained veterinarians with access to sophisticated medical equipment.
  • Contact either the Pet Poison Helpline at 800.213.6680 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435 for additional advice.

    Lucy napping with owner Matt Harker (photo courtesy of Matt Harker)

    Lucy napping with owner Matt Harker (photo courtesy of Matt Harker)