cigarette butt in ash tray

My Dog Ate a Cigarette Butt: Should I Be Worried? Our Vet Answers

Dr. Iulia Mihai Photo

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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A cigarette butt can be pure poison for your beloved four-legged friend. You should contact the veterinarian immediately if your dog has eaten a cigarette butt. It contains nicotine, which is quickly absorbed in the body, leading to intoxication and in extreme cases, cardiac arrest.

Nicotine is a poison and has been used as an insecticide since the ‘60s. It’s the main neurotoxic compound in tobacco. Besides cigarette butts, similar sources of poisoning for dogs are nicotine chewing gums, nicotine patches, and cigarettes.

Your dog will be in danger of death if they have consumed 10 mg of nicotine per kilogram of body weight (or approximately 5 mg per 1 pound of body weight).


Is Nicotine Toxic to Dogs?

Nicotine is the main alkaloid in tobacco leaves, the species Nicotiana tabacum, Nicotiana rustica, and Nicotiana americana (family Solanaceae), originating from tropical America.

This neurotoxic substance enters the body in several ways:

  • Digestive
  • Respiratory
  • Cutaneous

As nicotine enters the body, it is quickly absorbed and distributed in the blood. Nicotine can also cross the blood-brain barrier, which results in neurotoxic effects.

Nicotine’s metabolism takes place in the liver (about 80–90%), and elimination is done mainly through the kidneys. However, nicotine can also be eliminated through the lungs, sweat, milk, and saliva.

A cigarette butt can contain 4–8 milligrams of nicotine; this concentration depends on the length of the cigarette and its total nicotine content.

What Are the Signs of Nicotine Poisoning in Dogs?

Since nicotine is quickly absorbed by the digestive tract, clinical signs usually appear in less than an hour and may include digestive and nervous signs, such as:

  • Hypersalivation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Auditory and visual disturbances
  • Muscle tremors
  • Coordination disorders (wobbly walking)
  • Seizures

In severe poisoning, respiratory and cardiac disorders may also occur. At very high doses, dogs’ skeletal muscles can paralyze, which will cause respiratory arrest and death.

vet examining a sick German Shepherd dog
Image Credit: Roger costa morera, Shutterstock

What to Do If Your Dog Ate a Cigarette Butt

If your dog swallows a cigarette butt or any other product that contains nicotine, contact your vet or a veterinary poison control center for further instructions. If the ingestion was not long ago, the vet may recommend that you induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to absorb the toxins. For more severe situations, gastric lavages are used under sedation, as many pets are agitated.

If the clinical signs occur, do not leave your dog alone because they do not go away on their own and can lead to skeletal muscle paralysis and respiratory arrest, which leads to death. The critical time after ingestion is usually 4 hours. If your dog survives this interval, there is a good chance that they will recover. However, despite treatment, some dogs that have consumed significant amounts of nicotine will not survive.

If you did not see when your dog ate a cigarette butt, the diagnosis can be difficult to make because the clinical signs of nicotine poisoning are similar to those of other diseases or disorders. They’re also similar to those of ingestion of rat poison (strychnine), pesticides (organochlorines), or mycotoxins.

The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination to evaluate your dog.

The exam includes:

  • Blood pressure check
  • Heart rate
  • Respirations per minute
  • Oxygen level
  • Reflexes
  • Weight
  • Body temperature

The vet can also perform an electrocardiogram to evaluate your dog’s heart and can recommend blood tests to see if the internal organs are affected.

The best way to avoid nicotine poisoning is to remove the source of the poisoning. Keep in mind that ashtrays and other tobacco products also have nicotine or residual traces of nicotine. So, keep them all away from your pets. Also, if you know your dog likes to eat from the ground, you might want to consider muzzling them during walks to prevent such incidents.

nurse performing xray of dog in the clinic
Image Credit: Image Source Trading Ltd, Shutterstock

divider-paw Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Cigarette Smoke Affect My Dog?

If you are a smoker or live in a house where there are smokers, know that cigarette smoke can harm pets. Dogs exposed to secondhand smoke can suffer from various medical problems, such as allergies, eye infections, respiratory problems, or even cancer. To avoid exposing your dog to secondhand smoke, make sure they are not in the room when you or other people are smoking, and ventilate the area well before your dog returns.

Can Dogs Get Nicotine Poisoning From Secondhand Smoke?

In rare cases, your dog can get nicotine poisoning from secondhand smoke. This happens because the nicotine in the air lands on their fur, and when they groom themselves, they ingest it, and the nicotine reaches their stomach. Nicotine poisoning in dogs can have the following clinical signs: nausea, vomiting, weakness, lethargy, diarrhea, agitation, and even convulsions. In severe cases, it can lead to death through paralysis of the respiratory muscles.

Is It Okay If I Vape Around My Dog?

If you vape nicotine, it is not okay to vape around your pet. As with cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke), the nicotine in the air will deposit on your dog’s food, water, and fur, and your pet will ingest it when they eat, drink, or groom themselves. To avoid exposing your pet to this risk (intoxicating them with nicotine), do not vape around them or with them in the room, and always ventilate the room before your pet returns.



If your pet has ingested a cigarette butt, you should be concerned because it represents a medical emergency. Your dog could be poisoned by nicotine, a neurotoxin that can lead to poisoning and death (in severe cases). If your dog has eaten a cigarette butt, the clinical signs will occur within 1 hour of ingestion, so you must act quickly—take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Depending on how much nicotine your dog has ingested, clinical signs may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, lethargy, or seizures. In severe cases, nicotine poisoning in dogs can lead to paralysis of the respiratory muscles and death. Therefore, keep your dog away from ashtrays or products containing nicotine (cigarettes, cigarette butts, patches, or nicotine gum).

Featured Image Credit: 4506458, Pixabay

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