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

Written by: Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Dogster Team

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


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca


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, respiratory and/or 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, electronic cigarettes, cigars, and cigarettes. Your dog will be in danger of death if they have consumed between 9 and 12 milligrams of nicotine per kilogram of body weight (or approximately 5 milligrams per 1 pound of body weight), but clinical signs can be seen at much lower doses, even at 1 milligram per kilogram. One cigarette butt contains approximately 5 to 7 milligrams of nicotine. Therefore, chewing on a cigarette butt can poison your dog.

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Is Nicotine Toxic to Dogs?

Nicotine is the main alkaloid in tobacco leaves, which is the common name of the plant Nicotiana tabacum.

This neurotoxic substance enters the body in several ways:
  • Digestive
  • Respiratory
  • Cutaneous (liquid from electronic cigarette)

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 is absorbed rapidly in the small intestine and elimination is done mainly through the kidneys. A cigarette butt can contain 5–7 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 within minutes and last for 1 to 2 hours or even 24 hours, depending on the dose. These may include digestive and nervous signs, such as:

  • Hypersalivation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation, followed by depression
  • Muscle tremors
  • Incoordination (wobbly walking)
  • Seizures
  • Rapid breathing
  • Bluish gums
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiac arrest

In severe poisoning, 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 and your dog has not been sick yet, the vet may 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

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 and diagnostic tests to evaluate your dog.

The exam includes:
  • Blood pressure check
  • Heart rate
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Respirations per minute
  • Oxygen level
  • Reflexes
  • Body temperature
  • Blood test
  • Urinalysis

The vet usually performs an electrocardiogram to evaluate your dog’s heart rhythm 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-pawFrequently 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 irritation, 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?

Most cases of nicotine poisoning are described following ingestion of nicotine-containing products. However, secondhand smoke and even thirdhand smoke can harm your dog. Thirdhand smoke exposure occurs when the nicotine gets on furniture, clothes, and carpets, for example, and your dog may not only inhale nicotine but ingest it that way. Nicotine in the air may also land on their fur, and when they groom themselves, they can ingest it.

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 be inhaled by your dog and deposited 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 death (in severe cases). If your dog has eaten a cigarette butt, the clinical signs will occur within minutes to 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 respiratory and/or cardiac arrest. Therefore, keep your dog away from ashtrays or products containing nicotine (cigarettes, cigarette butts, patches, or nicotine gum).

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