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Marijuana Poisoning in Pets: Part II

Click here to read Marijuana Poisoning in Pets: Part I by Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT to learn how pets are exposed to marijuana, signs to look for, and what to do if your pet is exposed.

When a dog arrives to the clinic with signs of ataxia (stumbling, unsteady walk), sleepy mentation, and exaggerated responses to movement and noises, veterinarians have a good idea that marijuana poisoning is the culprit. Though easily treated, veterinary professionals do need to be able to rule out other possibilities and confirm the marijuana poisoning. At this point, it is absolutely crucial that pet owners are open and honest with veterinary staff about the pet’s exposure to marijuana. Here are five reasons why:

1. We are not the authorities.

Often, pet owners are very hesitant about admitting their pet was exposed to marijuana. Veterinary professionals will not judge pet owners, nor is it mandated for veterinarians to report these cases. We don’t care what you do, we just want to help your pet. We understand accidents happen. Failure to inform the veterinarian about your pet’s marijuana exposure will mean we have to do more tests and delay treating your pet.

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2. Prompt Treatment

The sooner we identify the underlying cause of your pet’s symptoms, the sooner we can treat your pet. Ideally, a physical exam, a good review of the pet’s history given by the owner, and an honest description of the pet’s exposure to marijuana will lead to prompt treatment. Marijuana poisoning in pets usually has a good prognosis. Depending on the signs your pet is displaying, treatment may vary from inducing vomiting to pumping your pet’s stomach. But we can’t begin treatment until the marijuana poisoning is confirmed either by the pet’s owner or by tests.

3. Severity of Poisoning

Currently, there is no known amount for what’s considered a toxic dose of marijuana for pets. This is why the veterinary staff needs to know how the pet was exposed to marijuana and an estimated quantity consumed in order to evaluate the best course of action. For example, marijuana butter contains much higher THC levels than regular marijuana baked goods. This increases the severity of the poisoning and can even be fatal which requires more aggressive treatment.

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4. Extra Expenses

A urine test can be done to determine if a pet has marijuana poisoning. However; this will cost you more and it will delay your pet’s treatment.

5. Other Possibilities

Marijuana toxicity has its typical signs and is usually very easy for veterinarians to diagnose and confirm. However, there are other toxins, drugs, and underlying diseases that look similar but are life-threatening. The prognosis for marijuana poisoning is excellent with appropriate treatment, but if your pet ingests antifreeze, has a serious brain disease, or is in liver failure, then there can be tragic consequences for not treating immediately. This is why it is very important for pet owners to be honest about marijuana exposure or else it may lead to more tests and added expenses.

The best way pet owners can help their pets after a marijuana exposure is by being honest with the veterinary staff. Honest and open communication will mean prompt treatment for your pet and a less expensive animal ER visit. Pet owners, remember the best prevention is to keep all marijuana and marijuana edibles such as baked goods, butter, and candy, out of your pet’s reach.


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