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So…My Dog Ate My Weed…

Posted 04.20.18 by Kassie Newton, DVM

As marijuana is becoming increasingly popular in use as it is legalized throughout the US, it is becoming a more prominent problem with our pets as well. This is something we are experiencing more and more in our profession, with some clinics treating 2-3 cases per week. The ASPCA poison control hotline said their reported cases have increased 200% in the past 5 years. That’s a lot of weed!

Whether your dog accidentally ate your brownies or the more potent medical grade product, it can affect them too. Small amounts may cause mild symptoms, but a large dose can become more severe for your pet, though thankfully it is very rarely fatal. While there are funny videos of pets “high”, this really is a more serious issue that needs to be addressed by your veterinarian.

What Causes These Signs?
Marijuana is derived from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The active ingredient that causes the clinical signs is delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

What Might I See?
Most pets will start showing signs 30-90 minutes after eating the THC, and these signs can last anywhere from a few hours to several days! In cases of ingestion, 90% of animals will develop neurological signs such as incoordination, extreme lethargy, startling, dilated pupils, and a slow heart rate. If they become excessively sedated this can lead to more serious problems such as aspiration, breathing problems, or incontinence (not realizing they are using the restroom). About 30% of patients will develop GI signs such as vomiting or diarrhea.

So What Should I Do?
First, get your pet to a veterinarian quickly. We are not going to judge you or call the police, so the #1 thing is to be honest with us. Honestly, we have all seen this before, and we usually have an idea of what is likely going on. However, other medications or issues can cause similar signs which can definitely change our treatment of your pet. So the best thing is just to tell us so we can get your pet feeling better and back home. In addition, chocolate or other things the marijuana may be mixed with can definitely be even more of a concern and potentially deadly to small dogs or cats.

What Will We Do?
A lot of this depends on how severe your pets signs are. If you catch your pet immediately we can get them to throw up before it gets in their system, avoiding any signs altogether. Some cases are treated mildly by controlling the symptoms with nausea medication and supportive care. More serious cases do sometimes require hospitalization on fluids and monitoring of blood pressure and heart rate. If you are suspicious but aren’t sure if your pet got into marijuana there is a urine test that we can do, however this isn’t always completely accurate because it is a test for humans and the crossover isn’t always perfect.

As this becomes more prominent we encourage you to talk to us and be honest with what you know. That way we can treat your “Party Animal” and get them back home where they belong.

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