Marijuana Poisoning in Pets: Q&A

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Continuing the education about marijuana poisoning in pets, Total Veterinary Care® has posted some questions and answers from the Pet Poison Helpline below. The full article can be found here!


Q. Can pets die from marijuana poisoning?

A. Yes, but thankfully this is rare. Speaking in terms of drugs, marijuana has a “wide margin of safety,” meaning that the lethal dose is extremely high as compared to the lower dose necessary to result in therapeutic effect (or in this case, toxic effect). Therefore, it’s extremely rare for pets to ingest enough marijuana to cause death, although they may still need medical treatment to recover from poisoning. In the recent Colorado study, two small dogs died, both of which had ingested baked goods made with highly concentrated medical grade marijuana butter. Over the past five years, no marijuana-related deaths in pets have been reported to Pet Poison Helpline.

Q. How do pets get exposed?

A. Poisoning in pets can occur following inhalation of the smoke, ingestion of the dried plant, ingestion of foods laced with marijuana (e.g., brownies, cookies, butter), or products made with hashish. Most commonly, dogs eat the dried plant directly from their owner’s stash, or eat foods made to contain marijuana. When those foods also contain chocolate, the risk of additional poisoning is increased.

Q. What are the signs of marijuana poisoning in pets?

A. Signs of marijuana poisoning in dogs and cats include glassy-eyes, stumbling/incoordination, dilated pupils, vomiting, coma, and in about 25 percent of dogs, agitation and excitement. Urinary incontinence or urine dribbling is also very common, especially in dogs. Serious effects include changes in heart rate, coma, tremors, and seizures. The signs typically begin 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion, or sooner if inhaled.

Q. What are the treatments for marijuana poisoning?

A. Treatment for marijuana poisoning includes IV fluids, anti-vomiting medication, oxygen, blood pressure monitoring, thermoregulation, and in severe cases, ventilator/respirator support. Decontamination (including inducing vomiting and giving charcoal to bind up the poison) may be performed if the ingestion was recent or large, but should never be done without consulting a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline. However, inducing vomiting may be difficult due to the properties of marijuana. It can take pets 18 to 36 hours to recover.

Q. Can my veterinarian use an over-the-counter drug test (for humans) to test if my dog was poisoned with marijuana?

A. Over-the-counter human urine drug screening tests have been used to help diagnose dogs with marijuana exposure; however, the success rate is highly inconsistent and false negatives occur. With these drug screening tests, a positive THC result is consistent with marijuana poisoning, while a negative result does not conclusively rule out poisoning.

Q. Will Pet Poison Helpline report pet owners to the police if his/her dog ingests marijuana?

A. No. The veterinary staff at Pet Poison Helpline is primarily concerned about the well-being of the pet. They ask only that pet owners are truthful and communicate exactly what the pet was exposed to, so they can quickly identify the poisoning and treat it as soon as possible.


Like the veterinary staff at Pet Poison Helpline, our team at Total Veterinary Care® seeks to educate and treat–not to judge.  And it is vital that pet owners/clients are truthful about the types and quantities of marijuana the pet was exposed to in order to treat quickly and appropriately. Signs and symptoms of ingestion include vomiting, drooling, lack of coordination/dizziness, rigidness, depression, sleepiness, excitation, nervousness, vocalizing, dribbling urine, low blood pressure, low body temperature, seizures, and, in rare cases, death.

If you see any of these signs, please get your pet to your closest Total Veterinary Care® hospital or after-hours emergency hospital right away!

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Allison

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