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Shih Tzu survives after ingesting cigarette


Gizmo ingested part of a cigarette that blew into the family’s yard

Gizmo the Shih Tzu puppy ingested a half-smoked cigarette and butt. (Image courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline)

Gizmo the Shih Tzu puppy ingested a half-smoked cigarette and butt. (Image courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline)

In recognition of the Great American Smokeout campaign, Pet Poison Helpline is sharing the story of Gizmo, a 4-pound Shih Tzu puppy, who ingested a half-smoked cigarette and butt. The cigarette blew into Gizmo’s yard during a recent dust storm.

"One of the neighbors' discarded cigarettes must have blown into the backyard during a recent dust storm," said Corinna Lopez, Gizmo’s owner, in an organizational release.1 "We were training Gizmo to go outside to pee, but when I went to bring him in, I noticed a cigarette butt stuck to his fur. I didn't see him eat any of it, but after about an hour he became very lethargic and started having a seizure. We rushed him to the veterinarian, who told us that if we hadn't gotten Gizmo to the hospital right away, he probably wouldn't have made it. We had no idea that a cigarette butt could be so dangerous to pets."

When Gizmo arrived unresponsive at the Arizona Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Center located in Peoria, Arizona, after he lost full control of his body movements, vomited, and had a seizure. The veterinary team at the center collaborated with experts at the Pet Poison Helpline where they determined he was suffering from nicotine exposure. They placed him on an IV fluid, antiemetics, anticonvulsants in case any additional seizures occurred, and methocarbamol.

"Very young or very old pets, or those with underlying heart or kidney disease, are more likely to develop clinical signs. Gizmo's very small size and young age made the risk of poisoning high even with only one half of a cigarette ingested," explained Renee Schmid, DVM, DABT, DABVT, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline.1 "Initially, the nicotine will act as a stimulant but then leads to [central nervous system] depression. Another concern is products containing xylitol, like nicotine gum, which can cause hypoglycemia or liver injury."

The American Cancer Society has been hosting the Great American Smokeout for over 40 years. The campaign takes place on the third Thursday of November and gives people who smoke the chance to commit to healthy smoke-free lives for more than just one day.2 The original idea for the Great American Smokeout came from an event at in Randolph, Massachusetts where Arthur P. Mullaney asked people to give up cigarettes for a day and donate whatever money they would have spent on cigarettes to a high school scholarship fund.

"Gizmo's potentially deadly cigarette was blown into his backyard during a storm, but many pets encounter tobacco and other nicotine products on a regular basis," said Schmid.1 "With so many nicotine products on the market, including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, gums, smokeless tobacco, transdermal patches, and insecticidal dusts and sprays, there are many ways our pets can become exposed."

After spending a night under close observation and intensive therapy, Gizmo was able to go home where he is now in full health.


  1. Playful Puppy Nearly Dies After Ingesting Cigarette. News release. Pet Poison Helpline. November 1, 2023. Accessed November 2, 2023. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/playful-puppy-nearly-dies-after-ingesting-cigarette-301973195.html
  2. History of the great American Smokeout. The American Cancer Society. Accessed November 2, 2023. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/risk-prevention/tobacco/great-american-smokeout/history-of-the-great-american-smokeout.html
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