What To Do If Your Dog Eats Weed
It was supposed to be a fun, carefree weekend. Sarah was hosting friends from out of town at her home in Nashville, and one of them had surprised the group with gummy edibles purchased in California.
The visit took a turn, however, when Sarah’s 3-pound Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix, Beans, got into the gummies and ingested about 50 milligrams of THC, the component in weed that gets you high. He quickly started showing signs that something was off ― drooling, impaired motor skills, inability to close his mouth, heavy eyelids.
“I felt so guilty! And just panicked!” Sarah, who wished to withhold her last name to talk about the incident, told HuffPost. “It was horrible because he looked so pathetic and out of it. In the moment, it was nothing short of harrowing.”
This kind of experience is becoming increasingly common as more states legalize recreational marijuana and the cannabis industry grows. In 2019, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center observed a 765% rise in calls about marijuana ingestion by animals over the same period last year, and Pet Poison Helpline has reported a 448% increase in marijuana cases over the past six years.
“Anecdotally, I’d say I’ve seen it becoming more common over the last two to three years,” Kenneth Drobatz, a p rofessor of critical care at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, told HuffPost. “We probably see a few of these cases a month.”
So what should you do if you find yourself in this situation with your dog? HuffPost asked Drobatz and other experts to share their recommended course of action.
Be Aware Of The Signs
Though pet owners may witness their dogs in the act of consuming cannabis edibles, there are many cases in which they aren’t aware of what has happened. It’s important to be aware of the signs of marijuana exposure.
“The effects of THC in pets can vary based on how much they consume and the level of concentration,” said Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society . He noted that signs include loss of balance, sensitivity to movement and sound, disorientation, hyperactivity, unusual or increased vocalization, drooling, uncontrolled urination, muscle tremors and, in rare cases, seizures or even a coma.
“They’re often wobbly and blinking. They can look very abnormal,” Drobatz said. “They clearly have this look like they’re looking around and not aware of what’s going on around them.”
If you know or suspect that your dog has consumed cannabis, it’s important to respond quickly.
“Marijuana on its own can be highly toxic for dogs, but some of the ingredients in edibles, like chocolate or the sugar substitute Xylitol, can be deadly,” said Michael San Filippo, a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Even without a concern about these added edible ingredients, marijuana on its own is a threat to our pets’ health,” he added. “Marijuana affects dogs differently than it does people. Some people think their dogs are experiencing the same high that people do. They’re not; they’re scared and sick and potentially in danger.”
Although these cases are very rare, there have been reports of pets dying after ingesting large amounts of THC, so medical interventions can be critical.
If you’re able to act within 15 minutes of ingestion, you should try to induce vomiting to get the marijuana out of the dog’s system.
Weitzman noted that hydrogen peroxide can help. “Give one teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide orally per 10 pounds of dog. Your dog should throw up within about 15 minutes,” he said.
Seek Professional Treatment
If you’re unable to make your dog vomit, veterinary hospitals have drugs that can induce emesis quickly. Even if your dog vomits at home, Weitzman advised taking the animal to a professional for further treatment.
“When your pet ingests any toxic substance, it’s crucial to get to your vet or an emergency vet hospital right away for treatment. It could save your pet’s life,” he said, adding that the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center hotline is a helpful resource as well.
San Filippo emphasized that dog owners should not be afraid to tell a veterinarian what happened ― even if they were unlawfully in possession of the marijuana. “We don’t have any interest in turning you in; we just want to save your dog’s life and help them recover.”
Let The Vet Determine A Plan
Drobatz explained that veterinarians may induce vomiting, but if too much time has passed, they’re hesitant because the dog could potentially aspirate.
Other courses of action include IV fluids and multiple doses of activated charcoal, which can bind to toxins and prevent them from being reabsorbed.
“There is no ‘antidote’ to marijuana, but veterinarians can limit the effects by decreasing further absorption of ingested marijuana through the use of activated charcoal and other methods of supportive care to keep them safe, comfortable and confined until they metabolize the drug,” San Filippo said.
“In some severely affected dogs, we may do intralipid therapy, but that’s rare,” Drobatz noted. “Most dogs just get IV fluids and monitoring.”
Make Sure It Won’t Happen Again
The process doesn’t end once your dog is happy and healthy again. Some pets will try to eat pretty much anything within their reach, even after a bad experience, so be mindful of where you keep things that could harm them.
“Just as you would with your medications, you want to keep marijuana and marijuana edibles safely out of reach,” San Filippo said. “Don’t get careless or lazy and leave loose joints or edibles out on a table or counter where curious dogs can easily reach them. They should be safely stored where dogs can’t reach and clearly labeled so other people know what these products are so they don’t leave them out for dogs to reach.”
Drobatz noted that household changes can lead to this situation as well. “We see this a lot during the holiday season when kids come home from college and bring home brownies or something like that,” he said.
Sarah’s dog vomited after ingesting her friend’s gummies, and after 24 hours of monitoring, he leaped out of bed and ran into the yard like any other day. Though she is grateful her dog didn’t suffer any long-term effects, Sarah told HuffPost that the experience taught her a valuable lesson.
“If I ever had anything like that again, I would definitely keep it secured in a high place in my kitchen where no animals can reach,” she said. “I’ve learned that if it’s in the house, the dogs are vulnerable.”
Veterinary experts share their advice for handling this increasingly common situation.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Marijuana
With cannabis now becoming legal in more regions, you may no longer need to keep your stash hidden from the police, but it is crucial that you keep it away from your pets, especially dogs.
Most dogs are curious. They explore their world with their mouths. Case in point is Bella, an adult Labrador retriever. Her owner, who lives in Millburn, New Jersey, where medical marijuana is legal, left half of a joint on a coffee table.
“I had no idea she’d eat it,” Bella’s owner, Marilyn Sanders, told Marijuana.com. “She’s a large dog. Within a few minutes, her gait got sloppy. I watched her to make sure she’d be OK. Fortunately, it was such a tiny amount for a large dog. She was fine in a couple of hours.”
Other dogs aren’t so lucky. While most cases are mild, with more potent cannabis products available, some reactions can be severe. A 2012 study from Colorado reported two cases of dogs dying after consuming medical-grade THC butter in baked goods.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has seen a significant increase in the number of calls about pets and marijuana.“Dogs are certainly the most likely pets to get into marijuana, but we’ve also received calls about cats, birds, ferrets, and rabbits,” said Grace Munns, coordinator of media and communications for the ASPCA.
Munns, who gathered information from ASPCA staff veterinarians, reported the APCC handled nearly 52 percent more cases involving cannabis in 2017 compared with 2016, increasing from 979 cases in 2016 to 1,486 in 2017. “Veterinarians across the country have indicated an increase in the number of cases they are seeing,” she said. Two veterinary hospitals in Colorado saw a fourfold increase in marijuana toxicosis from 2005 to 2010 in a retrospective study published in 2012 in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.
The APCC veterinarians said these numbers are relatively small compared with calls for dogs ingesting ibuprofen or chocolate, which is toxic to dogs. Many dogs prefer consuming chocolate-based edibles, which puts them at a higher risk than animals that eat plant material.
“We’ve found around 10 percent of marijuana toxicity claims are paired with chocolate toxicity,” said Michael Nank, a spokesperson for Trupanion, a medical insurance company for dogs and cats. “On their own, substances such as chocolate, butter, and oil can be harmful to pets. When combined with marijuana, the results are worse.”
“THC is toxic for pets,” he told Marijuana.com. “It can cause balance problems, irregular heartbeat, incontinence, or worse. Even inhalation through second-hand smoke can be dangerous.”
While insurance claims have risen, Nank noted, “We see the highest frequency of marijuana toxicity claims in Washington, California, and Colorado.”
If your dog may have ingested cannabis, here are symptoms to look for:
- A drunken gait, lethargy, and urinary incontinence
- About 25 percent of dogs will overreact to stimuli and be disoriented.
- Dilated pupils and tremors
- THC concentrates can cause dogs to become comatose.
What Should You Do if Your Pet Consumed Marijuana?
The amount of cannabis ingested and the size of your dog directly influences your decision about whether you should take your dog to a veterinarian.
Some animals may be only slightly affected and can be managed at home if they can still walk without help. These pets should be kept in a safe, quiet space where they will not be able to fall and hurt themselves. Check on your pet frequently to be sure his or her condition is not worsening.
If your pet is severely affected and cannot walk or is comatose, see a veterinarian immediately.
If you’re unsure, call the APCC at 888-426-4435, or contact your local veterinarian.
Following the Law
None of the existing or proposed laws address the use of marijuana for veterinary patients. In 2015, Democratic Nevada state Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom sponsored a bill to authorize veterinary use. “The theory was that veterinarians could prescribe it for dogs with the thought that they would try to do some independent research to determine what works,” Segerblom told Marijuana.com.
The bill didn’t pass because in states where cannabis use is legal, the law applies only to humans. In states where it’s legal for people, veterinarians are not protected to recommend its use.
Yet, even with anecdotal evidence of benefits from dog owners who have given their pets cannabidiol (CBD) oil products, no states allow veterinarians to use the plant extract in treatment.
Treating dogs with weed toxicity can be expensive.
“After munching on some elevated brownies, a [Shetland] sheepdog in California spent five long days and nights being treated at their local veterinary hospital,” Nank said. “After induced vomiting, IV fluids, assorted medications, and ICU monitoring, the Sheltie went home clear-headed and happy. The cost of care was just over $6,000.”
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Marijuana With cannabis now becoming legal in more regions, you may no longer need to keep your stash hidden from the police, but it is crucial that you keep it away