Is Vaping Around Pets Safe for Them?

Is Vaping Around Pets Safe for Them?

Although e-cigarette use has become a healthier alternative to smoking because e-cigarettes don’t contain carbon monoxide and other chemicals potentially harmful to smokers and those around them, there are still a lot of ongoing debates around possible negative effects of vaping. And while we have previously covered whether so-called "secondhand" vaping is bad for humans in one of our previous posts, the purpose of this post is to shed light on how safe it is to vape around pets, with particular focus on dogs and cats.
It is important that, to get a full understanding, we don't jump to general conclusions but instead examine this topic in view of a variety of factors. The first thing to keep in mind is that like pets' and humans' bodies may react differently, dogs and cats may also have different responses to the same chemical. Second, e-juice liquid and its vapor consists of different substances, and the concentrations of those substances may also vary. And the third but not least important factor is how those substances get inside the animal's body, or the way in which your pet is exposed, such as the vapor concentration in the air when e-cigarettes are used.
As for the substances contained in e-liquid, there are three of them: vegetable glycerin, nicotine and propylene glycol. The first one is the "body" of every e-liquid. It's the main reason exhaled vapor has smoke-like fumes. Vegetable glycerin has long been used in the pharmaceutical industry and in cosmetics and food manufacturing. And while vegetable glycerin is considered harmless for both humans and animals regardless of the way in which it is consumed, things are not that simple in regards to the other two substances.
It is a well-known fact that regular nicotine use may cause addiction in humans and that it can be toxic when used in large amounts. What is notable is that it is as toxic for pets as it is for humans. The most common effects of nicotine poisoning in both species include high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, vomiting and other symptoms. Various studies show that the level of nicotine necessary to cause poisoning in pets starts at 0.5 mg per 1 pound of body weight, while poisoning at levels above 4 mg per pound may cause death. So, for example, most vapers use e-liquids containing somewhere from 3 to 18 milligrams of nicotine per 1 milliliter of liquid, and if a cat, a smaller dog or a puppy plays with a 10 ml bottle of e-juice and accidentally chews it, the amount of ingested nicotine will be sufficient to cause death.
Everything seems pretty clear when it comes to direct gastrointestinal nicotine poisoning and its dangers, but what about the exhaled vapor and its concentration in the air? Can it be poisonous for pets when inhaled? To answer this question, we need to refer to a study on air quality during e-cigarette consumption conducted not so long ago by a group of British scientists. This study proved that nicotine from vapor exhaled by three experienced e-cigarette users momentarily dissipated in the air, maintaining a concentration in the air below 7 micrograms per cubic meter in a small meeting room, making it impossible to be inhaled in amounts that would cause any negative effects on either humans or animals.
Propylene glycol, the third substance contained in e-liquids, is used as a solvent for vegetable glycerin to extend an e-cig coil lifetime and add a throat hit similar to the one provided by tobacco smoke. Its use in e-juice is not required; however, those pet lovers who prefer to vape VG/PG mixes may become concerned by its potential toxicity when used in an e-cig around a pet.
The substance is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, and like vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol is widely used in the manufacture of various products available in the consumer market, including cosmetics, antifreeze, liquid detergent and food. It is used in some dog food products, and no empirical data has provided evidence of harmful effects on dog health. It had also been used in cat food until a study conducted in 1989 proved that digestion of propylene glycol by cats in significant amounts over an extended period can cause blood dyscrasia (Heinz body increase). However, no adverse effect levels for Heinz body formation were found in a later study where cats were fed 80 mg of propylene glycol by kg of body weight per day over a 2-3-month period.
Now, how does this apply to determining the risks of vaping on cat health? The study on air quality during e-cigarette consumption mentioned earlier indicated that under the same conditions (three vapers in a small room), the highest rate of PG in the air during vaping was 203.6 micrograms per cubic meter, which again makes it impossible to be inhaled by a cat in an amount that would cause negative health effects and is nowhere near 80 mg per kilogram of body weight.
With this in mind, one thing worth mentioning is that PG can act as a mild eye irritant in both humans and pets, and while technically vaping in the same room with a pet is generally safe, exhaling fumes directly in an animal’s face is not recommended.
In view of this research, here are a couple of things that will help you vape indoors in a manner that is safe for your pet:
  • Bear in mind that pets are curious and anything may seem like a toy to them. So always make sure that cartridges, refillable tanks, bottles with e-liquids and vaping devices are stored so that they are inaccessible to pets to avoid accidental ingestion.
  • Don’t exhale e-cig vapor directly at your pet because it may irritate its eyes and mucous membranes.
Vape safely around your pet, and feel free to share your comments below!

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