Marijuana poisoning in pets: Signs and Steps to Take

Dr. Alice TorielloPet Safety0 Comments

marijuana poisoning pets

Did your pet eat your stash? They are at risk for marijuana poisoning.

With the recent legalization of marijuana in several states, vets have seen an increase in the number of marijuana poisoning cases. Since medical marijuana has just been semi-legalized in Ohio, I thought that it would be a good idea to clear the air (sorry, that’s the last pun) about marijuana poisoning in pets and what to do about it.

First and foremost, we won’t judge or report you if your pet eats your stash, so BE HONEST

We need to see your pet if they’ve eaten marijuana. We are only concerned with their health, so you need to trust and be honest with us. Knowing that your dog ate a pot brownie instead of just a brownie is a critical piece of information and can help us help your pet and avoid incorrect or delayed treatment. Also, marijuana side effects mask some other symptoms (vomiting, hyperactivity, etc.) and enhance other symptoms (incontinence, drooling, etc.). Knowing that your pet ate marijuana really will help us narrow down the diagnosis and treatment options.

What are the signs of marijuana poisoning in pets?

Pets that eat marijuana experience overdose symptoms, mainly because they weigh a lot less than you do. These include (don’t laugh) glazed eyes, drooling, balance problems and lethargy, but can include loss of urinary control (incontinence), irregular heart beat, breathing problems, coma, seizures, and even death. Overdose deaths in pets are rare, but they have happened. Most of the pet overdose deaths that have been reported were in small breeds, where the dose per weight is much higher than a big animal. These symptoms are in addition to the toxic effects of whatever else they ate with the marijuana (chocolate, candy with artificial sweeteners, and butter pose the most risk). While deaths are rare, we don’t know what effect toxin combinations have on a marijuana lethal dose.

What should be done for a pet that was exposed to marijuana?

The most important thing is to call bring them to us to be treated. Symptoms of marijuana poisoning occur within an hour, so this is an emergency situation. There is a narrow window to induce vomiting and give activated charcoal before the toxins take effect (and start to prevent vomiting). We may treat with IV fluids, monitoring, and supportive care. We may give your pet oxygen, and warm or cool them, depending on the exposure and severity of symptoms.

Is there medical marijuana for pets?

Medical Marijuana for pets is being debated by the AVMA. It will probably come with complete decriminalization on the federal level. Marijuana may have some therapeutic effect in pets, but the dose is the difference between marijuana therapy and marijuana poisoning. There need to be more studies before it will be possible.

How can I protect my pet?

The most common marijuana exposure in pets is eating the plant or a food containing marijuana or THC. The best way to prevent this is to secure your pot the same way that you would any drug in your house from pets or children. Keep it in an out of reach cabinet and in a secure container. If you cook with any marijuana products, make sure that you clean up carefully. Dispose of any plant or product waste in the outside trash. These simple steps can keep the risk of pet exposure very small.

Pets can also be exposed through smoke inhalation. Blood levels of THC are higher and faster if your pet inhales smoke than if they eat an edible. Therefore, symptoms might be worse if they inhale the smoke. If you are smoking inside, try to limit your pet’s exposure to the smoke.

So there you have it, simple steps that you can take to keep your stash and pet safe in this new world of legal (or legal-ish) marijuana.

One last thing:  Please don’t bring the drug in to the clinic.  Any wrapper with ingredients is more than enough for us to get an idea of the exposure.

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