Will Vaping PG E-Liquid Harm My Cat?

By Lindsay Fox Posted January 22, 2014

Vaping Propylene Glycol e-liquid near catsAlthough propylene glycol (PG) is generally recognized as safe for humans and most pets, cats actually have a unique sensitivity to the chemical.

 

This may cause concern for some vapers, since the majority of e-liquids are primarily composed of PG. Upon learning this, it’s only natural to wonder if it would be better to switch to vegetable glycerin (VG) based liquids, or simply not to vape near your cat, but after finding out more about the issue, you can see that PG exposure from second-hand vaping is unlikely to cause an issue.

 

Why Propylene Glycol is Bad for Cats

 

It’s now well established that PG isn’t good for cats, and this is because of its effect on the red blood cells: it increases the quantities of “Heinz bodies” among them. These are basically lumps of hemoglobin that have been “denatured,” meaning that they’ve lost their ordinary structure and therefore aren’t as good at carrying oxygen. This occurs due to the action of “free radicals” (reactive, oxygen-containing chemicals), and the process isn’t restricted to cats. Generally speaking, the animal’s spleen either repairs the damage or gets rid of the blood cell, but if a large amount of blood cells are culled due to Heinz bodies, it leads to anemia (which can be basically defined as a low blood cell count). PG isn’t directly responsible for this oxidative damage in cats, but it’s assumed that the intermediary molecules when it’s broken down in the body are.

 

In cats, there is also a specific weakness to Heinz bodies because they form them more readily than other animals and their spleen is also pretty ineffective at removing them. Even in healthy cats, approximately 1 to 2 percent of red blood cells will have Heinz bodies, but their increased risk means that it should be minimized as much as possible.

 

PG was used as a preservative and a (cheap) source of carbohydrates in cat food until 1992, and although it’s still used in foods for all other animals (and ours), the FDA officially declared it unsafe for cats in 1996. Onions also cause Heinz bodies in cats, which is why they should also stay off the menu.

 

Should I Worry About Using an E-Cig Around My Cat?

 

The fact that the issue was detected because PG was put in cats’ food until the 90s should immediately allay some fears. Research has shown that the effect is dose-dependent: in testing, five weeks of feeding cats PG in ordinary cat-food like quantities (1.6 g per kg in body weight) increased the percentage of Heinz bodies to 28, and after three weeks eating higher quantities (8 g per kg) it went up to 92 percent.

 

For an ordinary cat (weighing around 4 kg), the lower dose used in the study would be 6.4 grams (or around 12 percent of their diet), which is a hell of a lot in comparison to the amounts you could realistically expect a cat to inhale by being in the room with somebody who’s vaping. If you’re mixing e-liquid and allow your cat to literally drink or roll around in your PG (which would require so many omissions of common sense it’s hard to even comprehend), then obviously there would be some cause for concern, but if you’re just using an e-cig there’s very little to worry about.

 

The best advice is to just exercise some caution about where you blow the vapor, as in, don’t blow it directly into your cat’s face (even if it’s funny), and don’t vape all over their food or water. The aim of the game is to minimize your cat’s exposure, but as long as you avoid these more obvious forms of exposure vaporized PG isn’t anything to be concerned about. Vapers who’ve asked vets whether PG from vaping is anything to worry about have received this same response.

 

Conclusion – Keep an Eye Out for Symptoms

 

Although it’s highly unlikely to occur, it’s still worth looking out for the symptoms of Heinz body anemia in cats anyway. These include skin discoloration, fever, loss of appetite, weakness (which develops quickly), pale lips, mouth and gums, and – in serious cases – rust-colored, red-brown urine. Even if it isn’t anemia or PG-related, it’s obviously still worth going to the vet if you cat has some of these symptoms, because they’re likely to be indicative of some problem. Due to the concentrations involved, there’s little risk of Heinz body anemia unless you constantly direct your vapor towards your cat – or happen to buy your cat food from the 1980s – but it’s worth being cautious anyway.

  • JasonWhite42

    Thanks for sharing the information. I did not know that PG was bad for cats. I think we should be more careful with vapor and juice. Simple things can make a difference such as we should not vape in a really congested room with no ventilation which may be harmful to the cat. Also check if your cat has a PG allergy which may be harmful for him when you vape.

    Obviously, if you care for your pet you will not vape in his face (not even for fun) and your cat will be okay.

    • krysti

      Two cats died of mine within two months of each other (9 years old). The 2nd we had autopsied and was told he had very little normal lung tissue left and died of acute and chemical inhalation. My husband and I have been vaping for 2 1/2 years around them. I am NOT saying this is because of vaping as we can come up with alternative possible explanations, but we don’t know for sure. We did get our air tested and it had a lot of propylene glycol in it (or derivatives of it with the same name in it – and comparatively speaking with other VOCs). I am posting as we are still hoping to find the definitive explanation for it. We also have a cockatiel who also became sick we believe due to the air she was breathing, but not until after the cats died which is we are not sure why – you’d think the bird would have symptoms first. She is doing okay after airing out our house and bringing her back, although she is itchy. If anyone has any experiences with this, please post. Thank you.

      • celeste

        This is scary…did you ever find out anything more about this? I just replaced smoking with vaping a month ago and have had both of my cats get seriously, unexplainably sick within a few weeks of each other.

        • Kala

          Hi Celeste,
          I didn’t see your response until now. Unfortunately, we never found out anything more except our bird definitely did *not* get sick from the vaping and she is fine now. We believe the bird got sick from an essentials oil plug in we were using. Air fresheners may have been the cause of the cats’ issues also, but I can’t say anything for sure. How are your cats doing now?

          • UnrealPhotography

            Air freshening products of any sorts are very toxic to birds. If you have a bird, you should avoid the use of incenses, aroma sprays, hair sprays anything anything with aerosol in it, outlet air fresheners, etc. Their lungs are extremely sensitive.

          • Darien Alexandra Mincey

            Would these things be toxic to cats also? I believe my cat has developed asthma. He is only 6 months old. The only things I can think of that could possibly cause it are the vaping or the candles and plug-ins I use. I have Bath and Body Works plug-ins in several rooms and also use their candles. I’m so worried.

          • Lilly’s Mom

            My cat 100% developed asthma because of my vaping in the house. When I started vaping, she developed symptoms and started having asthma attacks two months later. We had her on asthma medication 2x per day for almost a year. The good news is – when I stopped vaping (when I got pregnant), her asthma attacks stopped! It took about a month, but she has been perfectly fine ever since. I quit vaping this past May so she’s been asthma free for 6 months. I know it’s really hard to not vape in the house, but I can tell you from my experience – there is a direct correlation with cat asthma. I hope this helps.

        • Jeroenvw

          can you tell me something more about the symptoms, I have a very old cat and she just developed kidney faillure, could be from the age (she’s 18) but I recently started smoking pg (2 months ago) now only vg. Thanks in advance !

      • Jeroenvw

        can you tell me something more about the symptoms, I have a very old cat and she just developed kidney faillure, could be from the age (she’s 18) but I recently started smoking pg (2 months ago) now only vg. Thanks !

        • Steve

          Sounds to me like hyperactive thyroid. Very common in older cats and will lead to kidney failure if left untreated.

  • Michael Mayo

    I just started vaping last week. Today my sphynx vomited right after breakfast and again right after dinner. So it’s got me a little worried. He’s still the same hyper ball of energy though so I’m hoping this was just a fluke. Maybe he just had something bad yesterday and it’s catching up with him today. I’ll keep an eye on him. But I can’t help but think vaping might be a cause.

    • Steve

      If he’s older, it could be that he’s starting to develop a hyperactive thyroid. Very common in older cats, especially males. One of the symptoms is vomiting up their food. Left untreated, it’ll damage the kidneys and eventually cause kidney failure. The good news is that it’s easily treated with daily medication of Tapazole, surgery, or radioiodine therapy.

  • James Brown

    One of my cats has developed asthma and it’s definitely been caused by vaping, which I only do outside now, and this has alleviated the symptoms

    • Darien Alexandra Mincey

      I know this is an old post, but did you find that the symptoms did not come back once you stopped vaping? My cat has just had an asthma attack today and I’m scared that might be what is causing it for him also.

  • Vaper1

    My cat recently developed asthma and I wonder if it’s from vaping. I will only do it outside from now on so we’ll see if he gets better. Another of my cat’s died from anemia and she was only 6. I read later that PG can cause anemia. I don’t know if either of these things were directly related to my vaping but I feel incredibly guilty if they were. Just want to share the possibility for other pet lovers out there…

  • Aaron Ramirez

    One of my cats has also started having asthma like symptoms and the only thing that has changed is that I started vaping indoors around them…

  • Ted Danson

    He’s 16….and overweight. I’m sorry but u should look at those facts before being so hard on yourself.

  • Lilly’s Mom

    After reading all of the comments below, I’m also starting to get very worried. Lilly is my 3 year old healthy cat (she’s a little chubby at 10 lbs, but she’s exclusively indoors and has been spayed so the chunkiness is common). I started vaping 4 months ago, but made sure to never blow it in her face or near her food. Then about 2 months ago, she started wheezing constantly and her lungs started making ‘crackly’ sounds even when she wasn’t being active. I took her to the vet, who diagnosed her with mild asthma. I asked the vet if it could be from my vaping and he laughed at me, stating that I had nothing to worry about. All of the research I’ve done has also said vaping is not harmful to cats until this site! I hate to think I could be the cause of this. The vet put her on 30 days of steroids which helped the symptoms for a while, but now the symptoms are back. I’m going to vape outside from now on and see if it helps. Lilly is my baby!! :(

  • Jeremy Lingbeck

    My cat started out with sneezing all the time and started wheezing then after a while it started hacking like it had been smoking cigarettes after a couple of months like this and going to the vet and they thought it was allergies well the allergy shots didn’t work tried anti biotics but didn’t work my cat died and she wasn’t that old. I didn’t think it was the vaping till I just got a new cat and already it’s sneezing like crazy. So yes vaping harms cats don’t do it indoors if your going to do it or your loved one may be gone before you know it

  • Jody Hodges

    Has anyone of you considered the possibility that vaping PG or VG for that matter could cause anemia in a human. Or have similar effects.