Veterinary Blog

The Hazards of Marijuana Ingestion to Pets



Should a dog walk into the clinic peeing on the floors here and there and without inhibition, drooling, appearing to be a little spacey, a bit wobbly and staring at me with wide pupils I would be thinking right away of marijuana intoxication. A cat that has ingested marijuana may appear sedated or hyperexcited, often would be shivering or twitchy and maybe vomiting.

The most common source of exposure is through the owner’s own cache of “Mary Jane”. Other sources include laced cookies, brownies and “fortified” candies and remnants of joints left on sidewalks or tossed into garbage cans. Second-hand smoke is also a possible but less common cause. (Studies have shown that second-hand smoke from tobacco as well as marijuana can increase the risk of nasal cancer in dogs).

Many cases of marijuana intoxication are relatively mild and result in no lasting effects. However, clinical signs and recovery periods may vary depending on numerous factors such as the amount of substance ingested, the health status and age of the pet and the quality and components of the marijuana Higher concentration or combinations with other drugs can lead to “bad trips” and even more serious lasting complications and sometimes even coma or death!

Unfortunately, rapid diagnostic tests are not yet available to confirm pot poisoning.

Marijuana tests of urine as used in the human field are not useful since dogs excrete the toxin differently than do humans. Laboratory diagnosis can confirm the diagnosis but takes too much time to be of much value in emergency cases. Of course, open admission by the clients (or the smell of marijuana on their clothes) can make the diagnosis much easier to make and expeditiously treat.

Treatment of marijuana ingestion in animals is largely supportive; it can involve hospitalization for electrolyte fluid administration and administration of treatments that allow for rapid excretion from the patient’s digestive tract of any unabsorbed toxin.

With the legalization of marijuana for public recreational use in Canada inadvertent ingestion or inhalation of pot is going to be a much more common problem for both pet owners and well as for families with young children.

Increased public awareness of the dangers of marijuana to pets is very important since it is too easy for users to assume that no harm can come to a stoned pet and that “ waiting it out” is an acceptable approach. Involve your veterinarian for professional guidance. You may be very glad you did!

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