Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs [Poisoning]


On a typical morning, Jane wakes up and starts her daily routine by feeding her dog Fluffy. This morning Fluffy doesn’t come downstairs for his food. After some time calling him, a frustrated Jane finds her dog lying awake but in a stupor in his bed. Now in a panic, while talking to Fluffy, she picks him up and places him upright. Fluffy is able to stand but wobbles side to side, obviously off balance. Jane notices that Fluffy’s bed is damp with urine. She reaches out to pet her dog on the head and just before touching him, Fluffy jerks away from her almost as if he thought he was going to be hit. This is all too much and Jane runs to the phone to call her veterinarian. Jane doesn’t realize it yet, but her dog has ingested some marijuana and is experiencing toxicity, or poisoning, from this drug. Marijuana toxicity in dogs is an ever-increasing concern.

Marijuana And THC

The above is a common scenario in many areas of the world. Symptoms can occur secondary to ingestion of marijuana itself, or edible products that contain marijuana. The primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and is what is causing problems for Fluffy. THC concentration in marijuana varies from 1-10%. THC in hashish oil can vary from 30-50%. THC content in edible products such as cookies, brownies, marijuana butter and many other products can vary greatly.

Dogs Do Not Enjoy Getting High

Dogs like the taste and smell of marijuana in almost any form and will readily eat it. However, dogs are sensitive to THC and do not enjoy getting high. Veterinarians treating dogs for marijuana toxicity often observe a mixture of anxiety from the dog not understanding what is going on, in conflict with the sedating effect of THC. Many other symptoms can occur with dogs that ingest marijuana. In severe cases, dogs can even go into a coma. Effects may begin as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion and can last up to 72 hours. Dogs experiencing symptoms from THC are obviously in distress.

The severity of symptoms will depend on the amount of THC ingested on a per pound (per kilogram) basis. Therefore, for a given amount of marijuana, smaller dogs will be more sensitive than larger dogs.

Synthetic marijuana products are a category of synthetic chemicals designed to mimic the effects of THC. These products have the potential to be even more toxic to dogs than natural THC.

Make The Call

It is critical to realize that if your dog is suddenly acting strange, the first thing to do is call your veterinarian. Other toxins and medical conditions can mimic marijuana toxicity. Appropriate treatment will vary according to the individual situation.

What About CBD For Pets?

In a future article, I will be covering the developing topic of cannabidiol (CBD) products for pets. These are products that may not contain THC, or have it in small amounts

An Ounce Of Prevention

It is important to make every effort to prevent dogs’ access to marijuana, marijuana products or any other drug for that matter. Dogs will often seek marijuana out. Access can happen at home, out in the yard or commonly on walks and hikes. An unpleasant and little known fact is that after the liver has metabolized THC, the majority of it is excreted in the feces. There is the potential for dogs to become intoxicated by ingesting feces from a person that has been taking marijuana (or other drugs). The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center periodically gets just such types of calls.

The most important lesson of this article is caution and avoidance. Keep anything you do not want your dog eating securely out of reach. Do not underestimate how clever dogs can be when they are motivated to get to something they want to eat.