Why Does My Dog Eat Cigarettes: Everything You Need to Know

Dogs love to chew. Sometimes they ruin the furniture or even the walls. That’s certainly not good for them since chewing on wood and plaster can cause intestinal blockages. However, cigarettes are among the most dangerous things a canine can ingest. It could kill them. Pets eating weird things is always a concern for dog lovers. However, when your favorite Fido is eating cigarettes, you should be very concerned. I’ll walk you through what to do and why it’s a problem.

Why does my dog eat cigarettes? Your dog is eating cigarettes because they want negative attention. When you fall into a damaging behavior pattern where your dog gets more ‘bad’ attention than ‘good,’ they’ll do whatever they can to get you to acknowledge them. You need to break the pattern and keep the nicotine away from your pup. 

Why Do Dogs Eat Cigarettes

Dogs who eat cigarettes to misbehave, mainly when it’s obvious and right in front of you, are communicating a need for attention. When your pet isn’t getting as much positive attention as they want from you, they’ll settle for whatever they can get. Try to be patient with your ‘bad dog.’ Instead of getting angry, spend more time with them playing and giving love.

Consider a fun and easy option like the Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster for your quality pet-time. You can keep your pup happy and not wear out your arms. You can find this fantastic dog toy on Amazon when you click here

Puppies and some older dogs also tend to chew thoughtlessly on things. It’s possible that cigarette eating was an accident. If they ate your smokes, then it may be the smell of you that drew your pets’ attention.

Finally, there’s another possible reason why your pup might have chosen to eat cigarettes. Pika is a condition where animals (and people) eat non-foods. Diagnosing and treating a disease like Pika requires professional veterinary intervention. Alarmingly, when your dog has been eating cigarettes, you have a more immediate concern.

What to Do If Your Dog Ate a Cigarette

The reasons why dogs eat cigarettes are secondary to the risk. I don’t want to alarm you, but nicotine is one of the small things that can kill a dog very quickly. Regardless of their size, it doesn’t take much to cause doggy neurological damage or death.

When you catch your dog trying to get into an ashtray or pack of smokes, the first thing to do is take them away. Get whatever you can out of their mouth right away. You need to contact your vet or go to an emergency pet hospital if your dog swallowed tobacco.

For those who live outside the city, or cannot reach an emergency vet right away, there are other steps you can take to help your dog. Never ‘wait and see’ with potential nicotine poisoning. At the first sign of trouble, take action to save your pet.

Call Poison Control

Regardless of whether your dog eats cigarettes, every responsible pet owner should have the contact information for animal poison control. Hopefully, you’ll never need emergency help with a poisoned animal. However, if you do need this, it could save their lives.

The pet poison helpline is available 24/7. There’s a fifty-nine dollar ‘incident fee,’ but you’ll be able to talk to a specialist right away. Call (855) 764-7661.

In addition to the animal-specific pet poison center, you should keep the contact information for the national poison control center on hand. Poison.org is a free and confidential service, though they’re not animal specialists.

Poison.org can be reached by phone at 1-800-222-1222. They also have an outstanding online tool for questions about poisoning. Plus, you can download their app on your smartphone to carry with you if you live in a high-risk area or have incredibly incautious pets.

Minimize Cigarette Ingestion Risk

The most effective way to keep your dog from eating cigarettes is to keep them away from being exposed to them. I won’t lecture you about quitting here. Still, if you smoke, always put your cigarettes where your dog can’t reach them. High cabinets with child safety locks are the best.

Similarly, always empty and wash your ashtrays at the end of the day. Keep them in the same cabinet rather than leaving them out. Moreover, picking butts up off the ground is vital. If you live with neighbors or roommates who are careless about their butts, then always keep your dog where you can see them.

Consider kennel training if your dog is at risk all day while you work. I suggest you start with a basic MidWest Homes iCrate from Amazon. They’re perfect for training. Making sure your dog can’t reach toxic dangers while you’re away is a wise decision, and dogs enjoy having a den of their own. Click here to check prices and availability. 

Helping Your Dog

I am not a veterinarian or a pet care specialist, nor am I a doctor or poison control employee. You should always consult a vet as soon as you know your dog ate any nicotine product. I am sharing the following for informational purposes only, and I do not suggest trying to DIY dog care. Here are three solutions people have tried at home.

  • Administering Hydrogen Peroxide Doing this will induce vomiting in dogs. While it’s always better to avoid digesting nicotine, hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous. A dog who vomits up cigarette chunks is not absorbing them.
  • Activated Charcoal- Activated charcoal tablets are known to help absorb toxins from the body to help safely pass them. This will result in black poop, which is alarming, and often a sign of intestinal bleeding. However, in the case of charcoal, it’s pigment is caused by the finely powdered black substance. Do Not feed a dog barbecue charcoal as it’s not the same thing.
  • Dog Bath- In cases of dermal (skin) exposure, washing any nicotine off the skin helps stop absorption. Use a mild soap like Dawn. That specific brand is the same one emergency workers use to get oil off of animals who were exposed to oil-tanker spills in the ocean. Castile soap is also an excellent pet-safe option. I keep EWG Verified Castile Soap in my cabinet for everything, especially doggy baths. You can pick some up from Amazon by clicking here.

Symptoms of Doggy Nicotine Toxicity

If your dog ate a cigarette, it could take 15-90 minutes or more in some cases to see the signs of danger. However, the sooner you catch it, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to help your dog. When you’re not sure, it can be incredibly stressful and worrisome.

Catching your pup in the act is different from those ties when you only suspect something happened. If you think the incident happened hours ago, then please see a professional right away. Let your vet know when you suspect it happened. Here are the signs of nicotine toxicity in dogs.

What Does Nicotine Poisoning Look Like?

When you’re not sure if your dog ate cigarettes, it can be the worst feeling in the world. Seek medical assistance for your pup right away if you suspect they have ingested nicotine, or if any of these symptoms occur. Unfortunately, even the most observant animal owner can’t see everything. Luckily, often a vet can help save your sweet pet.

  1. Bradycardia (Slow Pulse)- A healthy pulse rate for puppies up to a year can go as high as 180 bpm (beats per minute). Smaller adult dogs resting heart rate averages 100-140 bpm. Meanwhile, a healthy large dog should have a resting heart rate like an adult human, between 60-100 bpm.
  2. Cardiac Arrhythmia- An uneven heartbeat is not normal for animals or humans.
  3. Collapse- If your dog ‘passes out’ or falls and can’t get up, they’re in danger.
  4. Depression or Lethargy- Watch out for the lack of motivation. Whether your dog is sleepy, grumpy, or sad, it’s a bad sign when they ate a cigarette.
  5. Diarrhea- Wet or explosive poop is alarming enough on its own. Don’t get upset; get to the vet.
  6. Difficulty Breathing- Any problems breathing might be a serious sign that nicotine is shutting down your dogs’ breathing capability.
  7. Dilated Pupils- If the black part of your dogs’ eyes is larger than usual, especially in bright light, it’s dilated.
  8. Drooling- Drool is self-explanatory. Chewing cigarettes can cause excessive drool as the mouth tries to wash itself out.
  9. Hyperactivity- Although it’s harder to tell in young or very active dogs, a sudden urge to be a crazy wild doggo might be a warning sign.
  10. Lack of Coordination & Stumbling- A dog who can’t stand straight or walk in a line is not behaving normally.
  11. Rapid Breathing- Often called panting, a dog should not breathe fast unless they’re winded or it’s very hot where they are.
  12. Seizures- A dog who collapses and becomes stiff, paddles their legs and/or loses control of their bowels might be having a grand mal seizure. Meanwhile, a minor seizure can involve snapping at the air for no reason or uncontrollable air licking.
  13. Tachycardia (Rapid Pulse)- Find your dogs’ pulse by putting your hand behind their left front leg or the inside top of their hind leg. Use a clock to time fifteen seconds while you count beats. Then multiply by four to get the bpm.
  14. Tremors- Uncontrollable shaking, like shivering or worse, even when it’s not cold, are tremors.
  15. Vomiting- Throwing up can be a good thing. Look for chunks of cigarette butts and slivers of tobacco. Anything the dog isn’t holding inside isn’t absorbed further. Don’t let them lick this vomit.
  16. Weakness- If your dog isn’t able to do normal things, like running, or making it upstairs when they normally would, they’re suffering from weakness.

Eating Isn’t the Only Issue

Your dog can get nicotine from eating more than cigarettes, as you can see. You might not be aware that in addition to all the toxic products they’re exposed to, there are other ways to absorb nicotine.

While ingestion through the stomach is most common, you need to be very careful. Unfortunately, the problematic toxin is also inhalable. There’s more to it than secondhand smoke.

Your dog can also absorb nicotine and other chemicals from the cigarette through their skin. That’s why you shouldn’t smoke indoors if you have pets. The smoke settles on surfaces unnoticed and builds up a potentially dangerous layer that pets lay in, and even lick off of things like their food bowls.

How Much Nicotine Harms Dogs

The exact amount of nicotine it takes to harm a dog who has been eating cigarettes varies. It depends on how much they absorb and how much they weigh. However, one average cigarette has enough of the toxin to make a dog very sick. For a teacup size dog, it could be lethal.

The exact amount is roughly 5-10 milligrams of nicotine per kilogram of body weight. At just five mg per pound, a dog will get sick. Once they reach 10 mg per pound, it’s lethal. A dog who eats a whole pack of cigarettes is in severe danger.

More importantly, there’s no form of nicotine that’s safe for a dog. Even a cigarette butt contains concentrated toxins. Unfortunately, other nicotine-containing products are just as risky for your pooch.

How Much Nicotine Your Dog Ate

Used cigarettes (butts) and even ash from cigarettes can still be toxic to dogs. A small dog, around ten pounds, only needs to ingest about two cigarettes worth of nicotine to get ill.

  • A Cigarette- Just one smoke has fifteen to twenty-five mg of nicotine. Different brands have different concentrations, but darker tobaccos tend to have more nicotine. That can add up to as much as five hundred mg in a pack.
  • Chewing Tobacco- At six to eight mg per gram, this is one of the lower concentrations of nicotine. Sadly that doesn’t make it safer for you or your pooch.
  • Cigar- At roughly fifteen to forty mg per cigar, even a stub can be dangerous.
  • Cigarette Butts- Although they aren’t as high in nicotine as a whole unsmoked cigarette, a butt can still have four to eight mg of nicotine. The length and brand affect the exact amount.
  • E-Cigarettes & “Vape Juice”- Most cartridges have six to twenty-four mg of nicotine. Bottles of ‘juice’ can vary wildly depending on how much is inside and the concentration.
  • Insecticide- It’s difficult to estimate the exact amount of nicotine in insecticides, but many of them contain the substance because it kills bugs as well as dogs.
  • Nasal Spray- One squirt is about a half of a mg of nicotine. Unfortunately, if your dog ate the whole bottle, it would be eighty to a hundred mg.
  • Nicotine Gum- A mere two to four mg of nicotine per piece may seem small, but it can still be a big problem. Plus, if your dog eats a whole pack, it can mean a lot more nicotine.
  • Nicotine Inhaler- Typical inhalers have four mg in a single puff and around ten to twelve mg in a cartridge.
  • Patches- Trying to quit is good for you, but it can spell danger for your dog. Patches contain anywhere from eight to a hundred and fourteen mg of nicotine.
  • Snuff- Powdered, inhalable tobacco has an average of twelve to seventeen mg of nicotine per gram.

How Vets Treat Nicotine Poison

Once your dog has ingested a cigarette and you’re at the vet, it can be alarming to wait and hope. Knowing what they’ll do to help your dog can help ease your mind. First, you should be aware that your dog may need to stay overnight. It’s normal, especially if the case is severe, to monitor your poisoned pet for a few hours.

Your vet will need to asses what happened. Answer the questions honestly and to the best of your ability. If you are guessing, make sure you tell them. Doing so will help them to give your dog appropriate treatments, and it could make all the difference for their recovery.

Next, the doctor may induce vomiting. As gross as it can be when your dog has cigarettes in their stomach, this might be the best way to stop them from absorbing more nicotine. In more acute cases, like when a dog is unconscious, they may pump your dog’s stomach.

Alternately, if your pet got the poison on their skin, then the vet will bathe your dog in a mild soap to remove the toxins that remain. Additionally, the vet will probably give your pooch repeated doses of activated charcoal to absorb toxins internally.

Severe Nicotine Poisoning in Dogs

If your dog is very ill, the vet may need to take additional steps. This particular poison can damage your dog’s ability to breathe. Your pet may need intravenous fluids to help them get the nicotine out of their system.

When a dog has trouble breathing, they may need a ventilator. Assisted breathing is scary, but it will help your pet. Moreover, the vet may give your dog oxygen. If necessary, they’ll even administer anti-seizure medications.

Once your sweet pooch is safely home again, they may need more downtime to rest and recuperate. Get your dog a great bed like the PetFusion Ultimate Dog Bed to relax in so they’ll get the rest they need. PetFusion makes outstanding orthopedic memory foam beds for your poor pup. Click here to find out more.

Final Thoughts

Tobacco and nicotine products aren’t great for humans, especially in the long run. For dogs, it can become deadly very quickly. Always keep cigarettes away from your pet. However, if your pup already got ahold of a cigarette, take action right away.

Some dogs are more sensitive than others. If your pet is small, young, old, sick, or just especially prone to nicotine poisoning, a much lower amount could injure them. Never assume a dog had a ‘safe’ amount of toxic chemicals when they were exposed.

Whatever the reason for your dog eating cigarettes, it’s a severe issue. Once you’ve treated the immediate problem, make sure you minimize their future risks.

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