With legalization of marijuana in full swing in many states across the US, the effect of weed on dogs has become an even more pertinent question. The VRCC Animal Hospital in Englewood, Colorado reported to ABC News that they receive 2-3 animals a week who have accidentally ingested medical marijuana, and 97 percent of them are dogs. It’s unclear as to whether the number of dogs accidentally eating marijuana has gone up significantly since its legalization in Colorado, or whether people just feel more comfortable bringing them to vets. Regardless, every dog owner should know the signs.
If my dog ingests marijuana accidentally, what symptoms should I look out for?
Dogs can ingest weed, just like humans, accidentally: By eating a pot brownie off the counter, or being around secondhand marijuana smoke. Of course, you should not keep marijuana or food made from marijuana where your dog could eat it. Similarly, you should not smoke weed in the same room, or even the same house, as a dog. That said, common symptoms include:
But these are just some common symptoms—there is no way to anticipate how your dog will respond, especially considering the size of your dog and what else they’re ingesting along with the pot. If you suspect your pup has gotten into your stash, especially if he has ingested chocolate as well as the weed, take him to your vet, ASAP.
How do you treat a dog who has eaten marijuana?
First, you should take them to the vet immediately. Vets will usually try to induce vomiting in your dog to get anything they’ve eaten out of their system. If your dog is too lethargic (a hint that the THC is already in his bloodstream) you should not try to induce vomiting because the dog could swallow it and asphyxiate. Vets will then watch the pup for seizures (which can happen if they ate a LOT of weed) and give them fluids to try to clear their system faster. But then you’ve just gotta watch and wait.
The most important thing to know is that it doesn’t matter what illegal substances your dog has ingested: You need to take your dog to a vet and the vet needs to know exactly what they might have in their system. Your dog can’t be treated if the vet doesn’t have all the information, and no, they will not arrest you.
Can marijuana kill my dog?
It takes a LOT of weed to kill your dog: During a study of dog reactions to cannabis in legalized medical marijuana states, 2 out of 125 dogs who ingested cannabis butter (basically butter with marijuana extract) died. It is most likely that extremely high levels of marijuana are toxic to dogs, but research has yet to determine whether or not cannabis is the primary cause of death, or whether ingesting other toxins along with the marijuana (say, chocolate) is more to blame. Owners should be vigilant, especially if you have a small, old or sick dog.
What about medical marijuana?
Increasingly, owners of dogs with chronic pain, nausea, or appetite problems have begun asking if medical marijuana could help their dog’s quality of life, like it has done for some people. Los Angeles veterinarian Doug Kramer spoke to the Associated Press about the drug’s capacity to extend a dog’s life and give them a few more months of normalcy.
“I grew tired of euthanizing pets when I wasn’t doing everything I could to make their lives better,” Kramer said. “I felt like I was letting them down.”
While Kramer says that his position is identical to the AMA’s, which says that cannabis’ effect on dogs needs further study before any can be prescribed as a way to manage a disease, when his Husky, Nikita, was dying, in pain, and refused to eat, medical cannabis was the only thing that made her feel better.
Many pet parents feel the same way: If your pup is distressed, why not give it a shot? Many vets and researchers advise caution. As Dr. Duncan Lascelles, a professor of surgery and pain management at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said:
“I think it’s pretty bad that there are a number of veterinarians that are giving a variety of different products by a variety of different roots without any basis behind it at all.”
What do we say? Consult a vet you trust, and do not medicate your dog yourself. You have no idea what you’re giving them, especially in a state where medical marijuana is illegal (which is 28 states in all, by the way). Would you prescribe an unknown pain medication for yourself, or a member of your family? Dogs rely on us to be their advocates, and their decision makers. A dog owner takes that job seriously, especially when their pup is sick.