Vaping and pets don’t mix

As vaping rates continue to skyrocket, particularly among teens, so do concerns about its adverse health effects.

Initially seen as a healthy substitute for smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes are coming under increasing scrutiny for potential health hazards that may exceed the dangers of traditional cigarettes. According to the US Surgeon General, e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients that include:

  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
  • Falvorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
  • Heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead


And of course, there’s all that nicotine—regular e-cigarette cartridges contain liquid nicotine at levels equivalent to two or three cigarettes, and concentrated refill cartridges contain 10 times as much nicotine or more.

But is vaping harmful to pets?

The US Food and Drug Administration thinks so, and say that the aerosol made by these devices may expose your pets to higher-than-normal amounts other toxic chemicals, like formaldehyde.

And Tina Wismer, DVM, MS, DABVT, DABT, agrees e-cigarettes can be harmful, but said it’s not so much the vaping as it is the paraphernalia.

Wismer, medical director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center, told NEWStat, “Vaping itself does not seem to be problematic for pets. However, pets do get into the cartridges and develop signs [of nicotine poisoning].”

Those signs can include vomiting, agitation, and high heart rates, Wismer said. And that’s just for starters: “Large liquid ingestions then block the nicotine receptors and cause lethargy, low heart rate, and low blood pressure.”

Wismer says when a client brings an otherwise healthy pet to the hospital exhibiting those signs, veterinarians should ask about possible exposure to nicotine cartridges.

Of course, nicotine isn’t the only mind-altering substance that people like to vape. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, comes to mind.

As for the dangers to pets of THC vaping, Wismer said they’re pretty much the same as those seen with nicotine vaping: ingestion of the cartridges. Animals who get into THC cartridges develop signs of THC poisoning, such as ataxia, disorientation, and urine dribbling. “THC exposures [in pets] have certainly increased in the past few years,” Wismer said, largely because more and more states continue to legalize the recreational use of THC.

And what’s the number one piece of advice veterinarians can give their clients who vape?

That’s easy.

“Keep vape supplies away from pets,” Wismer said.

Photo credit: © iStock/mirian-doerr