(434) 202-1616
Open nights, weekends & holidays. Open 365 days a year.
Call ahead if possible!
Blog banner

Blog

Marijuana Toxicity in Pets Becoming More and More Common

Marijuana. It has many nicknames — pot, weed, grass, reefer, honey oil, Mary Jane — but if it is consumed by your pets, it can be harmful.  Marijuana toxicity in pets is more common than you may think!

As more states and districts legalize marijuana, we anticipate seeing more marijuana toxicity in pets. Although people use pot recreationally or medically, it’s toxic to pets. Dogs (and very, very rarely cats) usually present with in-coordination and stupor and act like they want to fall asleep while standing, then quickly right themselves. The dog will likely have dilated pupils, deep-injected bloodshot eyes and rapid breathing, and they are often incontinent. The culprit ingredient is delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC.

The most common ingestion we see in the ER is marijuana-infused baked goods, especially brownies. Pot brownies have the double effect of chocolate toxicity to go along with marijuana toxicity. We get dogs that have eaten the owner’s entire “stash” (along with the plastic bag), as well as marijuana-infused butter products, which are even more toxic due to higher THC concentration.

Most signs of toxicity usually start 30-180 minutes after ingestion, and because THC is stored in fat, the signs can persist for up to 96 hours. While the mild-to-moderate symptoms listed above are more common, we have seen dogs present with more serious conditions from active seizing to total unconsciousness. We also have to treat plastic bag ingestion or chocolate toxicity in certain cases (see other blogs on these topics.)

If you suspect your pet has ingested marijuana, it’s important to be honest during the history-taking part of your visit! This is very important and can save your dog from unnecessary tests, as well as prevent you from spending money on tests your dog does not need. Understand that in the U.S., veterinarians are not obligated to report marijuana intoxications to the police, and having your vet know what he/she is treating is extremely helpful to the management of your pet’s problem. This can be especially important because other toxins can present themselves in similar ways, but can be fatal or far more serious.

If the ingestion has occurred within 30 minutes we usually try to induce vomiting in your pet. However if your pet is already showing clinical signs, the antinausea effects of THC can make it very difficult to induce vomiting. We will usually also give a product called activated charcoal to help bind up any remaining marijuana in the gastrointenstinal tract. Marijuana can undergo something called “enterohepatic recirculation,” where it goes from the GI tract to the liver and back to the GI tract, causing the effects to last longer. Multiple doses of charcoal, spaced apart by several hours, are often used to help prevent this situation. Intravenous fluids are also used to help stabilize your pet and assist him/her in eliminating the drug. If your pet is seizing or has lost consciousness, more intense treatment may be given as well over a longer duration in the hospital.

With good supportive care, the majority of pets with marijuana toxicity do well. Unfortunately, depending on the amount your pet has ingested and the severity of signs, marijuana toxicity could also be fatal. Like any toxin, early diagnosis and treatment of the problem are always crucial. Do not be shy when telling the vet what your pet got into — it might save his/her life!

3 Comments
  1. Reply
    Tracey

    I live in Los Angeles , specifically- Long Beach. I am all for medical marijuana, but my complaint is every public place I go, especially parks, people of ALL ages are enjoying their medical mary jane. What I do not understand is they litter in all the parks and parking lots, by throwing the containers the prescribed Marijuana came in, on the ground.
    I worry that animals will chew them up or lick them and become ill.
    I cannot overstate how many of these I see, every single day ! At least throw the bottles away.

  2. Reply
    Jamieluv

    My cat Leapy is 16 and has arthritis and hyperthesia (her back ripples of you touch it, and she expresses her discomfort). Before she chose me her previous owners allowed her to get pregnant 17 times. She had 147 kittens! After the 13th litter she realized that her owners were just taking her babies and putting them in a cardboard box in the park, expecting some Good Samaritan to take them. So Leapy started shopping around for a new home, and I moved onto the block. She sat on my porch and cried until I figured her out, got her fixed and started feeding her raw food. 7 years later and she is doing well. However we just lost our house and have had to move into an RV. I feel bad about keeping her in here (it’s 23 ft, not exactly palatial.) However letting her out has caused all sorts of challenges, the latest being an abscess on her butt (the same place she got one last year.) I took her to a clinic and they gave her antibiotics. She lets me bathe her, as she is a little overweight (she is not fat, her belly is stretched from all those kittens) and she can’t get back there anymore. That said, I have been trying to keep it clean, but a large scab (like the size of a quarter) has formed. It’s all matted with fur, and is obviously uncomfortable. I literally soaked her butt for 20 minutes tonight trying to loosen it up, used earth bath shampoo. Nothing worked! I really can’t afford to go back to the vet unless it is an emergency. Other than when I am trying to engage with it, she seems fine. On her last day of antibiotics. Do I keep soaking? Let it dry out and fall off on its own? I feel like trying to pull it off is going to be mega painful and traumatic.

    Got off topic! Sorry, my original intention was to comment on the Cannabis, but this scab has me worried. I have been giving her two or three drops of CBD oil on a treat for over a year. This is the first time I am hearing that it is toxic! CBD does not have THC, or a minute amount. Is CBD dangerous for cats? I feel like the CBD helps her when I have to put her in the box for driving, and she seems to be in less pain in general, and less stressed by the constant changes of living in an RV. I would stop if you were sure it is hurting, but I hope not!
    Thank you so much. Sorry for rambling!

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      There is a lot going on here. CBD can be safe, it is all dosing. I don’t know what a drop has in it and I’m not sure safe doses are out for cats. You would need to speak with a holistic vet or one that has used it on cats in the past with success. He scab on the butt might just be a scab that needs to heal and fall off or it might be the top of an active abscess. Hard to know. If it is just a scab let it dry and fall off, if it is an abscess it needs to be opened and drained or given more antibiotics. Hard to assess. I would give it a little more time and then if it is not getting better bring her to the vet for more antibiotics and a check. It can wait a little to see if it is healing. You say she is on antibiotics already, I can only assume for this problem from a vet. If the antibiotics are old or left over, I would not use them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *