Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs

With the legalization of recreational marijuana use on its way and the increasing popularity of medicinal marijuana being prescribed by some physicians, it is becoming more and more common for us to see dogs coming in with marijuana toxicity. Many owners don’t even realize that marijuana is toxic to their dogs, especially with the latest research on the different benefits marijuana may offer humans.

The main toxic component of marijuana for dogs is the psychoactive chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC). Dogs can experience a toxicity by ingesting the plant directly, inhaling marijuana smoke, or eating baked goods or other foods laced with marijuana. Symptoms can start to appear 30 minutes to 3 hours after ingestion depending on the amount consumed, and the effects can last up to several days.

Symptoms of marijuana ingestion include:

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Incoordination or walking wobbly/drunk
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Hypothermia
  • Vocalization
  • Low heart rate
  • Body tremors
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Respiratory depression
  • Body tremors
  • Seizures
  • Excitability

Diagnosis and Treatment
If you know your dog may have ingested any marijuana, it is very important that you be honest with your veterinarian. You aren’t going to get in any trouble and they aren’t going to call the cops on you! It is critical for the doctor to get all of the information to be able to properly treat your pet.

Diagnosis can often be made with the history and clinical symptoms alone. There is also a urine test, similar to a human drug test, that can detect any levels of THC or other drugs.

If not much time has passed since the marijuana ingestion, the veterinarian may induce vomiting. Another option is to orally administer activated charcoal to your dog, which will bind to the toxins in the GI tract and prevent them from being absorbed. However, once the symptoms start to show, it is often too late for these options, and the dog is instead treated with supportive care until the drug wears off.

Supportive care may include

  • IV fluids to keep them hydrated, help maintain organ function and flush the toxins out of their system quicker
  • Medications to regulate heart rate and respiration
  • Anti-anxiety medications to minimize agitation
  • Anti-vomiting medications
  • Close monitoring of the dog’s blood pressure, oxygen levels, and body temperature
  • Keeping the dog confined to a small, safe and comfortable space, such as a kennel
  • Keeping the dog away from excessive noise, light, or other sensory stimulation

If you suspect your dog has ingested marijuana, it is crucial you bring them in right away to see a veterinarian. While it is extremely rare for marijuana ingestion to be fatal in dogs, it is not impossible.

Written by Stephanie, RVT