PET owners are being warned to keep their pooches away from e cigarettes after a 435% rise in animals being poisoned.
An estimated 4 million people in the UK use the devices in a bid to quick smoking.
But it’s also leading to curious animals, fascinated by the smell, chewing on fake cigs and nicotine liquid.
Vets across the country have had to deal with poorly pooches and vaping has tragically claimed the lives of at least two dogs.
The Veterinary Poisons Information Service say they have seen a sharp rise in cases, from just 17 in 2013 to 91 last year – and these could be the tip of the iceberg.
Spokeswoman Nicola Bates said: “We’ve seen an increase in enquiries in recent years from veterinary professionals about animals exposed to electronic cigarettes and is actively following up all cases.
“The figures only relate to cases where the VPIS has been consulted but there are likely to be other unreported cases.
“The VPIS recommends owners to contact their veterinary surgeon for advice if they think their pet has chewed or eaten an electronic cigarette or the liquid refill.”
Heartbroken Miffany Haynes lost her dog Leonardo after he chewed on a discarded e cigarette a friend had left under her sofa.
She realised he’d sank his teeth into the smoking aid after he collapsed in her back garden and was able to take him to the vets immediately.
She recalled: “He just flopped on his side. It was like he was frozen. His tongue was in the back of his throat and he stopped breathing.
“I pulled his tongue back and gave him mouth to mouth, pounding on his chest to help him breathe again.
“We rushed him to the vets and they flushed out the nicotine as best they could, but then he started fitting. The poison must have affected his brain.”
Her vet monitored the young Staffordshire Bull Terrier closely and gave him regular medication to prevent the fits.
Miffany spent £10,000 on vet’s bills trying to save him. But Leonardo fretted so much about having a seizure he was scared to sleep.
The anxiety put so much strain on his heart and vital organs that eight months after he first fell ill, he had a final seizure and Miffany watched him slip away in March 2015.
The 40-year-old radiographer from Florida is now on a crusade to make other owners aware of how dangerous e cigs can be.
She said: “These things should be banned. A dog would have to eat three packs of cigarettes to get the same amount of toxins as Leo ingested by chewing on one for a moment.
“I believe numerous dogs will have died without owners even realising. Leonardo weighed two and a half stone, that’s the same as a three year old, and it killed him.
“It’s only a matter of time before it happens to a child.”
Sean Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association, says owners need to get their pet to a vet as soon as possible if they fear they have ingested nicotine.
He said: “Nicotine is a fatal poison that acts very quickly. E-cigarettes and refills can easily contain enough nicotine to kill a small animal very quickly.
“As with all substances that are potentially toxic to pets, we recommend storing all e-cigarette equipment safely out of reach of your pet.
“If you suspect your pet has chewed or eaten an e-cigarette or any toxic substance then it is vital that you contact your vet for treatment as quickly as possible.”
For Miffany, it was too late, but she wants Leonardo’s case to serve as a warning to other pet owners.
She said: “I’m utterly heartbroken to have lost him, but I don’t want his death to be in vain, and when he died I vowed to him I would make sure as many people heard his story.
“If that saves another dog then I can at least take some comfort from losing him.”
Miffany’s crowdfunding page is at https://www.gofundme.com/leonardo