While usually not life threatening, Marijuana (Cannabis) Toxicity can cause serious debilitating illness in pets. With shifting viewpoints on marijuana use, broader medical use, and increased availability of recreational flower and edible products, the chance of exposure for pets will continue to grow in the future. Dogs make up approximately 96% of marijuana ingestion cases and, while second hand smoke can cause symptoms, oral ingestion is by far the most common route. This can include the ingestion of dried marijuana plants, flowers, oils, edible treats, and even topical salves and ointments. While fast responses to potential ingestion are key in reducing the harmful effects, education and awareness are the best preventive measure for protecting your pets.
Typical symptoms can include: depression, lethargy, loss of motor control or coordination, vomiting, and hypothermia. Severe symptoms which are greater cause for concern are: slowed or elevated heart rate, agitation, vocalization, diarrhea, drooling, urinary incontinence, and even seizures or coma. The effects can last up to 12 hours, or even multiple days depending on the quantity and strength of cannabis product consumed and weight of the pet. If ingestion has occurred within 30 minutes inducing vomiting can reduce the effects, after 30 mins the anti-nausea effects of marijuana may make inducing vomiting less effective. Supportive care and monitoring by a veterinarian is the best option for insuring rapid resolution. This care can include fluid therapy, administration of activated charcoal, blood tests, and a reduction in visual and auditory stimuli.
Prevention is by far the most effective measure for keeping your furry loved one from experiencing this type of poisoning. All cannabis products should be stored in sealed containers out of reach. Regardless of whether you have marijuana in your home, the same precautions you would use to protect children from any toxic ingestion apply. Discuss the potential of exposure with your family and friends so you can insure play-dates do not lead to possible exposure. Having these conversations with family and friends may be challenging, but it is an important step in caring for your loved one. Occasionally, dogs find “left-overs” from marijuana use in public spaces like trails and parks, keeping a close eye on your pet and working on commands like “leave-it” can help protect your pet.
Remember, your veterinarian’s primary concern is making your dog well, not placing blame. We do not care whose marijuana the dog ate or how it got it, we just need to know if ingestion is a possibility.
If you have any questions about Marijuana Toxicity or how you could protect your pets please contact your veterinarian.