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
What To Do in Case of Marijuana Intoxication
By: Christine New, DVM
Published December 2015
Marijuana in all forms is toxic to dogs and cats. Marijuana ingestion occurs much more commonly in dogs than in cats because dogs tend to be less scrupulous in the things they eat. After consuming marijuana, dogs typically show clinical signs within 30 to 90 minutes. Signs include wobbliness and incoordination, drowsiness, jitteriness, restlessness and hypersensitivity to touch, sound and lights, meaning they startle easily. Dogs may urinate on themselves, have low heart rates and dilated pupils.
Veterinarians are not required to report pet marijuana ingestion to law enforcement. If there is a possibility that marijuana was in the pet’s environment, it is best to be honest and forthcoming so prompt and appropriate treatment can begin. Similarly, you should disclose any other possible drug ingestion (illicit or prescription) to your veterinarian. If there is marijuana in your pet’s environment and your pet is not acting normally, you should assume your pet has access to it. Remember, dogs can be adept in gaining access to things they would like to eat.
If marijuana ingestion is suspected, a urine sample can be tested to confirm exposure and likely intoxication. Human urine drug tests can be purchased without a prescription from any drug store as well as the pharmacy section of many grocery stores. Human urine drug tests are highly accurate at detecting marijuana and other drugs in your pet’s urine. If there is a suspicion that your pet may have ingested a drug, your veterinarian may ask you to provide a urine drug test while clinic staff members obtain a urine sample for testing. Urine drug tests provide accurate results within five to 10 minutes.
Treatment for marijuana intoxication is focused on removing the marijuana from your pet’s body. If ingestion occurred within 30 minutes of the time of presentation and your pet is alert and appears to be acting normal, your veterinarian may induce vomiting to remove as much of the material as possible prior to absorption. This greatly reduces the potential for toxicity. Owners should not attempt to make dogs vomit since serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as choking and aspiration can occur.
Your veterinarian may recommend hospitalization of your pet for 12 to 24 hours for close monitoring. Additional treatments that may be administered include intravenous (IV) fluids and oral activated charcoal, which can further help absorb the marijuana in your pet’s system. IV fluids hasten the excretion of the drug in your pet’s urine while activated charcoal binds to the drug within the gastrointestinal tract to further reduce absorption and aid in excretion in subsequent stools.
Close monitoring of your pet’s body temperature, heart rate and breathing are also needed until the marijuana has been cleared from your pet’s body and your pet returns to normal. Marijuana is a powerful sedative, and at high doses, it can induce a life-threatening coma. With appropriate, interventional care by a veterinarian, marijuana toxicity is almost never fatal. Long-term side effects are extremely rare.
Dr. Christine New practices veterinary medicine at the Hillside Veterinary Clinic in Dallas.
You may not know what to do if your dog eats weed, but pet marijuana intoxication can be serious and demands attention; here's what you'll need to do.