How many cigarette butts are toxic?

Our question this week was:

I read your article on Petplace about Nicotine Toxicity in Dogs and that "5 milligrams of nicotine per pound of body weight" is a toxic level for dogs. How would that equate to eating cigarette butts? Is it true that 2 tobacco butts eaten by a puppy could kill it quickly?


Annie Peterson – Everett, Washington


Hi – thanks for your email. The amount of nicotine in various products vary. For example, one cigarette contains 15 to 25 milligrams of nicotine, and nicotine patches contain between 8 to 114 milligrams of nicotine. Nicotine gum contains from 2 to 4 mg per piece.

A 10-pound dog would only need to eat 2 to 4 cigarettes in order to show toxic signs. You should note that even after smoking, tobacco retains a significant amount of nicotine residue.

The butt of a cigarette can contain from 4 to 8 milligrams depending on the length of the butt and the content of the original cigarette. Cigarette butts have a deceptively large amount of tobacco relative to the size of the butt as smoking concentrates some of the nicotine in the cigarette butt.

Ingestion of nicotine products is more common in puppies and it is possible for 2 cigarette butts to cause symptoms in a puppy. I would not expect it to kill the puppy however it is possible if the butts were VERY concentrated and the puppy is very small. Even then, I would expect some signs of nicotine toxicity e.g. tremors, weakness, twitching that could eventually cause depression and paralysis.


Dr. Debra

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