OTTUMWA — Throwing a cigarette butt on the sidewalk can be unsightly. Around dogs, cigarette butts can be deadly.
"Over at the dog park, people are in the habit of [throwing] their cigarette butts down. Dogs can get sick or die when they eat them," said Cynthia Glasford, tobacco prevention specialist at Sieda Community Action.
Ottumwa's parks director has agreed, said Glasford, to post signs at the Bark Park. Her department has arranged payment for the signs.
"We were able to purchase three of them," she said. "The signs state that this is a tobacco-free park. And that all tobacco products contain nicotine, which is poisonous to dogs."
It seems obvious that eating cigarettes isn't a healthy nutritional choice, but poisonous?
"Nicotine is harmful to dogs," confirmed Dr. Laurie Hickie of Pipestone Veterinary Services in Ottumwa.
It's not always deadly: 1 mg of nicotine per pound of a dog's weight will make them sick. So if there were three butts on the ground (that's 5-7 mg of nicotine each butt), then the litter could poison a 20-pound dog. Tremors, drooling and hallucinations are some of the symptoms the veterinarian listed. However, at 4 mg per pound of dog, nicotine is lethal, Hickie said.
It's not just happening in Ottumwa, it's worldwide, Glasford said, adding that there are more cigarette butts on the ground and in landfills than any other specific item of litter.
Just in case it's not obvious, Hickie answered a Courier question: "No. It is not good for dogs to eat cigarettes."
Those flavored chewing tobaccos are trouble, too. Glasgow said dogs smell the aroma and eat the nicotine off the ground.
Yet this raises a question: Why is someone who keeps people from smoking helping keep Wapello County animals safe?
"I'm a tobacco prevention specialist," Glasford said. "You look at ways to reduce tobacco use; a lot of people have pets, and they'd do anything for their pets. It's another way to reach people. Some pet owners know [the facts] and will not smoke inside their home. Their pet is something they love, and that means a lot to them. People may stop smoking at the [Ottumwa Bark Park]. Any time you change your habits, it's a step toward quitting."
If your dog finally convinces you to quit, Glasford recommends 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
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