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Marijuana Poisoning in Dogs Increasing

Marijuana poisoning in dogs is increasing as it becomes legal in many states.

Recreational and medicinal use of marijuana is now legal in many states across the country and that number is increasing regularly. Veterinary clinics and pet poison hotlines have noticed a corresponding spike in pet toxicity cases related to marijuana, especially in dogs. In fact, the Pet Poison Helpline reports they have had a 448% increase in marijuana cases in the past 6 years (Audra Stillabower, n.d.).

Is Marijuana Toxic to Dogs?

The marijuana plant contains dozens of cannabinoids, which are chemicals that scientists believe are unique to marijuana. The two most heavily studied of those are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). CBD is not thought to be toxic to dogs, but THC, the component that produces psychotropic results in humans, is. Therefore, dogs that ingest marijuana or products made with it can suffer negative effects that might be serious.

What Are the Signs of Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs?

Dogs that ingest marijuana at a toxic dosage might show some or all of the following signs:

  • Sedation or lethargy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Ataxia, or stumbling
  • Whining and other vocalization
  • Deregulation of body temperature (may drop or rise)
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation or dull attitude
  • Disruption in heart rate (may become too high or low)
  • Coma

Signs may begin anywhere from 5 minutes to 12 hours after the dog ingests something containing marijuana.

How Can Dogs Be Poisoned by Marijuana?

Dogs can be exposed to and develop toxic effects from marijuana in three basic ways:

  • By ingesting edible products that contain marijuana
  • By eating the owner's marijuana plants or parts of plants
  • By being exposed to secondhand smoke when marijuana is used around the dog

Treatment of Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs

Dogs that are suffering from marijuana toxicity can suffer signs of poisoning for anywhere from 30 minutes to several days. In extreme cases, dogs can die from marijuana toxicity when they experience a very high or low temperature or significant seizure activity.

Treatment of canine marijuana toxicity is supportive. There is no antidote to the poisoning, but veterinarians can support the dog's body systems while the substance exits the body. Some of those support techniques might include:

  • Hospitalization for monitoring
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Anti-seizure medication
  • Temperature regulation as needed
  • Anti-vomiting medication
  • Heart rate monitoring and medication as needed
  • Nursing care to help the pet get around without injury
  • Active charcoal administration to absorb some of the marijuana if ingestion occurred recently enough

Many dogs recover well from marijuana toxicity, especially when they are properly diagnosed and good supportive care is given. However, diagnosing marijuana toxicity can be tricky. That's because owners might not wish to report that they have marijuana in their possession, even in states where it's legal, because of potential social stigma.

Owners should understand that marijuana ingestion is dangerous for dogs and keep marijuana and products containing it out of reach of their pets. If you do suspect that your dog has gotten into marijuana, be sure to report it to your veterinarian so your dog can get proper treatment.


References

  1. Audra Stillabower, C. (n.d.). MARIJUANA TOXICITY IN PETS. Retrieved from petpoisonhelpline.com.

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