Nov 08 2018

My dog ate weed… now what?

Dogs eat things they shouldn’t.

This isn’t exactly headline news, but it does present a challenge to veterinarians.  When a dog presents with sudden onset illness (like vomiting and diarrhea) or behavioural change (like incoordination or disorientation), veterinarians must consider whether these changes are related to something the dog ate.  Among the most common foods/toxins dogs get sick from are chocolate, grapes/raisins, medications, and – yes – weed.

It happens.  With the recent marijuana legalization and the growing popularity of medical and recreational marijuana use, veterinarians are seeing increased toxicity cases linked to cannabis ingestion in dogs.  The risk of accidental ingestion is further increased when weed is prepared in an edible form like cookies or brownies.

So what should a pet owner do if their dog has consumed weed?  While chances are everything will be fine, a trip to the veterinarian is warranted.  Pet owners should not attempt to induce vomiting at home as this could lead to more problems.

At the vet visit, pet owners should feel comfortable telling their veterinarian if they suspect their dog could have consumed weed – it is very useful information!

Veterinarians will assess the dog’s heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure, and look for outward signs of marijuana toxicity.  These signs include:

  • Somnolence/lethargy
  • Incoordination or dizziness, disorientation, and/or agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Urinary incontinence/dribbling
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Hyperesthesia (exaggerated response to stimulus like noise – jumpy)
  • Drooling
  • Vocalization
  • Rarely more severe signs like coma or seizures

Based on the history and findings on examination, a treatment plan will be determined.  This may include decontamination – or induction of vomiting.  The decision to take this step is based on how severe the effects are, how recent the exposure was, how much weed was consumed, and whether other things were eaten along with the weed, like butter or chocolate.  Further to this step, charcoal may be administered to help bind the drug within the digestive tract and prevent more THC from being absorbed into the body.

After initial treatment, supportive care may be provided.  Depending on the patient’s needs this could include warming, intravenous fluid administration, and administration of medications to control tremors, vomiting, seizures, or agitation.  Veterinarians will also monitor vital signs like heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure.

Most dogs will recover completely within 12 – 24 hours, though some dogs will take longer.  Once recovered from the effects of marijuana intoxication, there are no expected long term harmful effects.

While weed intoxication in dogs is manageable pet owners are encouraged to take precautions to prevent their dog access to their marijuana – particularly edibles!

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