Marijuana Toxicity in Pets

Image of a marijuana leaf over a bar of chocolate.

Imagine your concern if you came home to find your dog unable to walk, unresponsive, or in a coma. This is becoming more common as marijuana begins to lose its illicit status, at least in some areas of the world. As the decriminalization and even legalization of marijuana has occurred, cases of toxicity in animals have unfortunately increased. Marijuana seems to have a much more profound effects in pets than in humans.

Marijuana Facts and Statistics

The Pet Poison Hotline has reported a 200% increase, over a five year period, in calls asking about marijuana and pets. California and Colorado both passed legislation to legalize medical marijuana usage. At the University of California, Davis, Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital there were four cases of marijuana toxicity in 2010, but there were 27 cases in 2013. Two Colorado veterinary hospitals reported a four-fold increase over the last six years, and this was before marijuana became legal. All but two of these cases lived; two dogs who ate cannabis butter died. In a 2002 study of 250 cases, 96% of cases occurred in dogs (dogs will eat anything!). In this group there were two fatal cases, one was a cat, and the other a horse.

Signs of Marijuana Toxicity

The active ingredient in marijuana is THC, tetrahydrocannabinol. THC affects neurotransmitters, so when toxicity occurs, neurological signs are the most common symptoms. These symptoms include depression, lack of cooridination, dilated pupils, tremors, seizures, and coma. Other signs that can occur are vomiting, salivation, low blood pressure, slow heart rate (but sometimes a fast heart rate can happen). Death is rare.

Exposure in Pets

Pets are usually exposed by ingesting marijuana, or foods that contain extracts of marijuana. Signs can develop within 30 to 90 minutes after exposure. THC stays in the body up to five days, but symptoms usually last up to 72 hours.

When a veterinarian is presented with a patient where marijuana toxicity is suspected, but the history cannot confirm (either because the owners are not aware, or don't want to admit it), a urine test can be used to detect marijuana.

Treatment for Exposed Pets

Dogs and cats with marijuana toxicity require hospitalization. Treatment may include inducing vomiting if the ingestion occurred very recently (within 30 to 60 minutes), the patient is awake, and it is safe to do so. Activated charcoal is also administered, often every eight hours for the first 24 hours as this helps to bind the THC so it is not absorbed into the body. Intravenous fluids are started to help flush out the toxin, and to help maintain blood pressure. The pet patient's temperature, blood glucose, and blood pressure are closely monitored. Other symptoms, such as seizures or vomiting, are treated if they appear.

Many pets will eat anything, so vigilance is needed to keep them out of trouble. Marijuana poisonings are becoming more frequent, and can cause severe symptoms in pets. Pet owners need to be aware of what is accessible in a pet's environment and keep their pets safe.

Sources:

McKnight, Katrina. "Marijuana Toxicosis." Veterinary Technician, April 2003

American Animal Hospital Association. "Medical Marijuana Boom Posing Health Threat to Garbage-Eating Pets." January 2014.

ASPCA. "Animal Poison Control." 2014

Seligman, Katherine. "Dog's Pot Poisoning Soars as Pets Dig Through Trash, Stash." January 10, 2014.

Location

Find us on the map

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

9:00 AM-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

9:00 AM-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

9:00 AM-5:00 PM

Thursday:

9:00 AM-7:00 pm

Friday:

9:00 AM-5:00 PM

Saturday:

9:00 am-1:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Testimonials

Feedback from our clients

  • "Thanks for everything you did for Ready !
    Obviously he loved you all !"
    Bart V.
  • "I will continue to bring my furkids to Buck Road. They are absolutely wonderful with my dog and have been a great resource for my cat who suffers from allergies and kidney problems. They really care about their patients and their humans, and listen to me when I have concerns. They are never, ever overcrowded. Usually there is maybe one other dog in the waiting room. That is a relief and keeps everyone's stress levels down! The facility is clean and staff is always friendly and willing to walk you through, step by step, the treatment plan ahead. I never leave feeling confused. I love this place - and we keep coming back despite moving pretty far away!"
    Courtny S.
  • "Awesome staff ~ great veterinary care ~ Dutch is lucky to have such wonderful professionals looking after him!"
    Beverly B.
  • "A top notch practice. Highly recommend."
    Jason D.
  • "I've been bringing my pets to Buck Road Animal Hospital almost from the time they started and I have never had anything but positive experiences there. The staff feel like friends to me and they always make you feel like they're happy to see you and your pets. The vets take their time with you and your pets and they go out of their way to give you any information you might need about a pet's condition or treatment. I have A LOT of pets and some of my dogs have aggression issues but you'd never know it to see them there. They understand how to make any animal feel at ease and even my most difficult dog is welcomed there. I'd never go anywhere else. Best veterinary practice anywhere."
    Mary K.
  • "I have been a client of Buck Road Animal Hospital for 30 years..and they are the all the greatest caring friendly kind people..I would not go anywhere else..They go out of there way to accommodate you..They are Number 1..Hats off to Caroline Renee Leanne Donna Lindie and to the best vets Dr Steve and Dr Mary Pat."
    Carole M.
  • "Probably the greatest animal hospital of all-time. The staff is superb, and the Doctors are as kind and knowledgeable as they come. Can't wait for our next visit!"
    Andrew S.