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Cigarette butts toxic to dogs

Q: I saw someone in my neighborhood toss a cigarette butt from his car window. I walk Patch, my Jack Russell terrier, on leash, but I’m worried he will devour one before I can stop him. Are cigarette butts toxic?

A: The cigarette butt is the most toxic part of the cigarette because as the smoker inhales, nicotine is concentrated in the butt. In fact, the butt retains 25 percent of the nicotine in the entire cigarette.

Cigarette butts contain from 2 mg to 8 mg of nicotine, depending on the brand. When dogs ingest nicotine, toxicity begins at 0.5 mg nicotine per pound of body weight. The lethal dose is 4 mg per pound. Therefore, a typical Jack Russell terrier of 9 to 15 pounds could be in trouble after eating a single cigarette butt.

Toxic signs, which begin within an hour of nicotine ingestion, include vomiting, diarrhea, constricted pupils, drooling, agitation and weakness. Tremors and twitching often progress to seizures. Cardiac arrest and death can occur.

Should Patch ingest a cigarette butt, take him to a veterinarian immediately.

I suggest you teach Patch two commands that may save his life: “leave it” and “drop it.” Use the first if you see him reach for something he shouldn’t, and employ the second if he grabs it before you realize what he’s done.

Editor’s Note: For more than two decades researchers have studied pets and secondhand smoke effects. They found that cats and dogs share many of the same risks from exposure to tobacco smoke as humans.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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