Emergency vets call on pet owners who switch to vaping to be aware of potential dangers for dogs

It’s been announced that vaping e-cigarettes is “definitely” less harmful than smoking tobacco.

This is a major development as concerns had previously been raised that vaping may be just as dangerous. As a result, health chiefs have called on those trying to give up smoking to consider using electronic cigarettes instead.

But what does it mean for the nation’s dogs?

Image of e-cigarette for Vets Now article on dangers to dogs
Health chiefs have announced e-cigarettes are "definitely" safer than smoking tobacco

Research shows dogs regularly exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke are significantly more likely to develop lung cancer, cancer of the nasal passages and respiratory diseases.

Dogs who live with a smoker are also more likely to gain weight. This would suggest that dogs whose owners have swapped smoking tobacco for vaping e-cigarettes will benefit.

However, the jury is still out on whether exposure to second-hand vapours from e-cigarettes has less impact on health.

One study published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health found that vaping worsened indoor air quality by increasing the concentration of nicotine, hydrocarbons and aluminium. All of these compounds have been linked to lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Another investigation concluded that using an e-cigarette indoors “may involuntarily expose non-users” to nicotine, which is toxic to dogs.  It said more research was needed to evaluate the “health consequences of second-hand exposure to nicotine, especially among vulnerable populations”.

In this context, the term “vulnerable populations” refers to children, pregnant women and the elderly, but it could just as easily have included dogs.

Image of Bella for Vets Now article on e-cigarettes
Yorkshire terrier Bella needed emergency treatment after biting into an e-cigarette

In the UK, almost three million people use e-cigarettes while about nine million, or 16% of the population, smoke tobacco.

This, however, is way below the number of smokers recorded in previous decades. But the decline in people smoking tobacco and the rise in popularity of vaping has had one negative impact on dogs.

There has been a big rise in the number of dogs being poisoned by the liquid in e-cigarette refillable cartridges.

These can easily contain sufficient quantities of nicotine to kill a small animal and have resulted in hundreds of dogs being rushed to emergency vets.

Figures from the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), for example, show vets reported 113 cases of dogs being poisoned by e-cigarettes last year.

One dog who was rushed to Vets Now after biting into an e-cigarette cartridge was miniature Yorkshire terrier Bella.

Her owner takes up the story: “We were watching a film when Bella came from behind the couch wheezing and staggering. She then stopped breathing and then fell on her side.

“It turned out she’d managed to get an e-cigarette cartridge from the kitchen table, snuck it behind the couch, and bitten into it. She was then violently sick.

“We phoned our vet and our call was diverted to Vets Now as it was out of hours. We rushed there straight away. The vet was brilliant. He explained that e-cigarettes were dangerous to dogs and gave Bella some medication.

“A few hours later, after some close monitoring, he brought Bella out to see us. She was lively, excited and playful – completely different to the dog we handed in.”

The Vets Now clinic, where Bella received treatment, is one of 55 clinics and pet emergency hospitals across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.