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Dogs, Marijuana and Accidental Consumption

02/16/2022 Health & Wellness
funny dog wearing sunglasses with marijuana leaves

Medical marijuana has become legal in many areas of the country. Both medical and recreational marijuana have gained wider social acceptance. This is great for consumers, but there is one unintended consequence to be aware of: the risk to pets posed by accidental consumption. Veterinarians have reported a massive increase in incidents of unintentional pet ingestion of marijuana.

There are, of course, CBD products on the market that are designed and formulated specifically for pets. They can help your pet deal with pain and anxiety – especially needed when fireworks are being set off! And they won’t get your pet high.

Cases of accidental consumption are a different story. If your pet has ingested any CBD products that aren’t made for pets, you will need to take action to ensure proper care.

Keep An Eye Out for These Symptoms

Dogs are much more of a worry than cats regarding accidental cannabis consumption. Many dogs, of course, will eat almost anything. If your dog or cat has any of the following symptoms, make sure to call your vet right away.

Potential symptoms (for both dogs and cats) after ingesting marijuana:

  • Vocalization (yelps or wails)
  • Change in activity levels (hyperactivity or lethargy)
  • Breathing issues
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of balance
  • Bumping into walls or furniture
  • Fainting

Depending on your pet’s size, small amounts of marijuana (i.e., a tiny amount of an edible) will probably be OK. You will want to watch your pet closely and keep them calm. Get them to lie down if you can and keep them distracted with their favorite toys or snacks. (This could be an excellent time to play a “Relax My Dog” track on YouTube!)

sleeping dog at night

The whole subject reminds us that research on the effects of marijuana is still scarce. On the federal level, marijuana is still illegal. Information about the potential impact of marijuana on animals is not available yet. When it comes to a safe dose, most pet owners and veterinarians are just guessing.

This is just another reason to play it safe if you think your pet has eaten some cannabis. Make sure to put your medical marijuana stores in a safe place. If you’ve taken some medical marijuana, be careful not to fall asleep with any leftovers next to you.

Actions to Take If Your Dog Eats Cannabis Accidentally

Our pets take our cues from us, so staying calm will help your pet be calm.

In the case of ingestion of a small amount, you can give your pet activated charcoal. The charcoal acts as a magnet to gather any toxins and help them pass through your dog’s system. Most of us don’t have activated charcoal on hand, so you may want to consider getting a small supply. It could be a challenge but stay calm for your dog’s sake.

Call the 24/7 Pet Poison Helpline and do what they advise right away. Make sure to give truthful information during the call. Veterinarians are not required to report if they hear about illicit use of marijuana (for those in states that haven’t yet legalized medical or recreational marijuana). And your pet’s health is the vet’s priority.

chihuahua dog with a first aid kit

Call the vet and take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. (It’s a good idea to have information about an emergency vet on hand for after hours and on weekends.) Once again, honesty is the best policy, and being upfront about what your dog has eaten will best help the vet treat them. Most likely, the vet will give your dog activated charcoal to soak up non-digested THC and provide IV fluids to dilute any THC.

Most people only have small amounts of marijuana around, not enough to be fatal to our pets. But, again, with only a small amount of scientific research, it’s difficult to gauge an exact level of safety. We know that huge amounts of marijuana can create a severe reaction for animals. Until we know more, just keep your pet as safe as possible. Keep your marijuana stash secure, and call your vet right away if there’s any question your pet has eaten marijuana!

Been There, Done That

I have a Jack Russell terrier, and accurate to the breed, she is playful and full of energy. But, unfortunately, she gets into things that she shouldn’t! I love her lots but also call her my “stinker pot.” One day, she started bumping into things as she was walking around. At first, I didn’t think much of it. But then she really started wobbling, and her hind legs gave out. Things escalated quickly, and I knew something was wrong.

pug dog eating fake marijuana leaves

My friend helped me take her to the vet right away. I was so nervous in the waiting room. I could hear my dog crying and wailing, and I became gripped with fear for her. The vet finally came out to ask me some routine questions. In Colorado at the time, that included a question about accidental marijuana ingestion. Then I knew.

I had left half of a marijuana cookie in the drawer of my bedside table. Since it was in a plastic container and in a drawer, I thought it would be safe. But, somehow, that tenacious, feisty little girl was able to find and eat it.

This adventurous behavior led to the vet treating her with activated charcoal and IV fluids. She was then given a tiny amount of sedation to help her rest. She was not in any danger. Luckily, my vet understood what had happened. They didn’t judge me. Instead, they kindly suggested that I stay with my dog until the effects of the marijuana had worn off.

I had a big mix of feelings in the aftermath of this experience. Relief that my dog was going to be OK, but also a lot of guilt that it had happened. I never want anything like this to happen to my dog again, and I hope it never happens to any of our readers’ pets.

Now I use a mason jar with a flip-lock. Inside is a tight rubber container that holds my medical cannabis. But, of course, part of being a responsible marijuana user is keeping your stash safe from pets.

happy labrador retriever laying in grass

What NOT to Do: Marijuana and Pets

Keep in mind that many edibles contain xylitol and/or chocolate. Both are toxic to dogs, even in small doses. Pet lungs are sensitive. Make sure your pets are not allowed around marijuana smoke.

In the case of accidental ingestion, don’t induce vomiting. It can be dangerous for pets because they can easily choke on their own vomit. However, a good vet can safely induce vomiting for your pet if that’s the correct course of action.

Veterinarians in states where medical marijuana is legal have become more educated about handling pets’ accidental ingestion of marijuana. Pet owners can feel grateful for this while still taking action to protect pets. Prevention of unintentional consumption will help your pet to avoid the ill effects of accidental ingestion as well as a trip to the vet!

Being a responsible marijuana user means being ever mindful of your pet’s safety! They will pay you back with years of love and loyalty.

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