Pets and Marijuana
In recent years there has been an exponential increase in marijuana related toxicosis in dogs and cats across the entire United States. In January of 2019, the ASPCA’s web page Marijuana Toxicosis in Animals had a 700% increase in views and their pet poison helpline had 765% increase in calls related to marijuana exposure in the first few months of 2019.
What to do if your pet ingests marijuana:
Regardless of the product you have, the first line of preventing exposure to your pets is keeping it out of their reach. If you’re smoking it, put all ashes or residue in a tightly secured garbage can afterwards, any wrappers or paper held marijuana substances should be discarded similarly. A sealed container that cannot be easily opened should hold your marijuana in a hard to reach place. Cats can easily jump up on counters and open cupboards and dogs can open closet doors easily. If you find that your pet has got into marijuana the first thing you should do is safely remove them from the area and wipe their face, fur, and paws to remove any additional marijuana from being ingested if they lick themselves. Collect any left over pieces of the packaging, product, or ashes off the floor and keep any information that lets you know how much marijuana they ingested and the % of THC it contained if possible. You should then call the national Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 or the ASPCA Poison Control (888) 426-4435 to report the exposure to a licensed veterinary toxicologist who will guide you on what to do next. There are fees associated with these services, but they are relatively inexpensive and do save you and your vet time and money, in the long run, as the toxicologist will formulate a treatment plan for your pet while you are traveling to your local veterinary clinic. Once you have called and established a pet poison control case you should then call your local vet clinic or veterinary emergency clinic to establish a place to treat your pet. Providing them with your case number over the phone can also help speed up treatment time once you arrive at the clinic or hospital with your pet.
What are the signs of marijuana ingestion?:
Symptoms can start in as little as 3 minutes after ingestion and can last upwards of a few days as the THC is processed through lipids and fat in the body. Your pet may start to become uncoordinated, falling over but catches themselves, have dilated pupils, become hyper reactive to sights/sounds, have a startle response, have a increased or decreased heart rate, hypothermia, agitation, or in rare cases seizures and/or comas may occur. If you do not know if your pet ingested marijuana, but do notice these symptoms it is best to rule out other toxin exposures as well as they have similar signs-especially antifreeze ingestion. However, there is one symptom that does separate marijuana exposure for the other toxins and that is sudden urinary incontinence which often occurs. Not all pets display every symptom- some may only experience a few while others experience them all or even just one symptom. When moving your pet to your veterinarian be aware of these signs and that your pet may react in a manner that is very different from their normal personality. Try to keep them in a quiet, dark, warm, area while traveling to prevent them from being stimulated as much as possible. You may want to put down towels or pee pads to aid in case they do start to urinate.
Treatment of your pet:
Once arriving at the veterinary clinic, your veterinarian will discuss a treatment plan with you based on the recommendation of the toxicologist. Most cases have your pet receive fluid therapy in which to help prevent dehydration, activated charcoal which is a liquid used to bind to the toxin in your pets body after administered orally so no further exposure can occur, and warmth as they do become cold. Some pets do need to be admitted depending on their size and symptoms for overnight monitoring but most times your pet will go home with you to watch and keep warm and quiet while the THC is expelled. You should never attempt to make your pet vomit at home unless instructed by a veterinary professional due the fact your pet may become drowsy and aspirate on their vomit.
Even though it may be scary to see, marijuana ingestion is usually a short lived toxin in your pets symptoms and fatality rates from exposure are very low. Being honest with your vets about ingestion is the best and safest way to ensure your pet is properly cared for as well. As marijuana becomes more and more popular across the US it is important to keep in mind it doesn’t affect our pets the same way as us and to keep them as safe as possible as best as we can.
Chelsea Lewandowski, LVT
ASPCA. “Marijuana Toxicosis in Animals.” ASPCApro, 19 Feb. 2019
Brooks, Wendy. “Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs - Veterinary Partner.” VIN, 11 Feb. 2003
CVETS. “How to Spot Signs of Marijuana Toxicity in Your Dog.” CVETS, 8 Nov. 2018
Elkins, Chris. “Forms of Marijuana.” Drug Rehab, 27 Feb. 2020