Here at Animal Emergency and Referral Center of Minnesota, we see a lot of marijuana/THC poisoning in dogs (and rarely, cats). Unfortunately, more and more pets are getting into marijuana, due to the decriminalization of both medicinal and recreational marijuana. Pet owners are also using medicinal marijuana for their pets, which you can read more about here. We veterinarians are also seeing an increase in synthetic THC (e.g., K2, Spice, etc.) poisoning in pets too. Marijuana, which comes from the cannabis plant, contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This toxic ingredient directly affects the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. In pets, we can see clinical signs even at low doses. So, as a pet owner, what do you need to know if your pet accidentally got into marijuana?
Why is marijuana poisoning in pets becoming more common?
Again, because of the legalization of marijuana in many states, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is seeing a dramatic increase in marijuana pet exposure – by almost 800% a year!
How can pets be exposed to marijuana?
Pets are mostly exposed to marijuana through oral ingestion of THC buds and edibles (e.g., such as baked goods and marijuana butter). Since cats don’t often get into baked goods, the most common form of exposure for them is the bud form of marijuana. This is because of their curious nature, and the buds do resemble dried catnip!
Rarely, inhalation exposure can occur, but this is rarely seen (it’s rarely seen in animal abuse cases, where pet owners purposely blow smoke into their pet’s face).
What’s the most common way pets are being exposed to marijuana?
Dr. Tina Wismer, the Medical Director at ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, said that most of the poisonings seen by dogs is due to eating marijuana baked goods. Unfortunately, human medical doctors have found this is also how many children are exposed to marijuana. This is because dogs and kids can’t differentiate regular baked goods from marijuana edibles.
What is the most dangerous type of exposure?
The most dangerous type of ingestion is marijuana butter, as it contains very high THC levels. The chemical is absorbed into fat and tissue really well, which makes the THC very concentrated. This then results in more severe poisonings and rarely, can even be fatal.
What signs would pet owners expect to see with marijuana poisoning in dogs and cats?
- Walking drunk
- Dilated pupils
- Agitation or sedation
- Urinary incontinence
- Slow or rapid heart rate
- Slowed breathing
Typically, dogs and cats show signs of marijuana poisoning in one to three hours after exposure. However, signs can develop as soon as five minutes after exposure or they can be delayed for up to twelve hours. These signs often last 18-24 hours, but can last up to three days.
What should I do if my pet was exposed to marijuana?
Seek veterinary care immediately! With any poisoning, the sooner you get to a veterinarian or emergency veterinarian, the sooner we can treat and the less expensive for you and less dangerous to your pet! Your family veterinarian or your emergency veterinarian will decide if it’s best to induce vomiting or pump your pet’s stomach – we only do this if your pet isn’t showing signs of the poisoning already. Other treatment for marijuana poisoning in pets may include anti-vomiting medication, IV fluids, thermoregulation, anti-anxiety medication, nursing care, and monitoring (e.g. electrocardiogram, blood pressure, etc.), depending on how severe the signs of poisoning are. If your veterinarian is less familiar with marijuana poisoning, you can show them this treatment information from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
The best way to prevent marijuana poisoning in pets is by keeping stashes and edibles out of your pet’s reach. If you suspect your pet was exposed to marijuana, contact your family veterinarian, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 24/7, or your local animal emergency hospital.
You can learn more about marijuana poisoning in pets on my radio show on Pet Life Radio ER Vet.
Click here to read Marijuana Toxicity in Pets: Part II, written by Dr. James Newton, an emergency veterinarian at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, to learn how the best way pet owners can help their pets after a marijuana exposure.