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Ever Wonder What Weed Will Do to Your Dog?

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Janan Abed, DVM, Practice Limited to ER/Critical Care Medicine
Garden State Veterinary Specialists


Weed, pot, Mary Jane, hemp, hashish, etc. these are all common names for the recreational drug marijuana, used for its psychoactive effects. This drug is still illegal in the state of New Jersey. The active ingredient is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, and is found in highest concentrations within the flower buds and leaves at the top of the plant.

Marijuana is unfortunately harmful to pets through BOTH inhalation (i.e. smoking near your pet causing second hand smoke, blowing smoke directly into their faces) and ingestion. Ingestion of fresh or dried plant parts or even plant oil, purposefully infused into baked goods or butter, is common.

Classic clinical signs include sedation or dull mentation, hyperesthesia or dramatic/exaggerated reactions, wobbly/ataxic or drunken gait, dribbling urine, slow heart rate, vomiting, elevated temperature. Marijuana toxicity can cause respiratory depression, coma, seizures, and even death with large exposure.

The onset of clinical signs often occurs within 30-60 minutes after exposure. These generally last an average of 18-24 hours. Although signs of toxicity can resolve spontaneously, we recommend that your pet be evaluated immediately if you suspect exposure. With increased urinations and dull mentation, many pets will not eat or drink and become dehydrated quickly. If vomiting has already occurred, electrolytes and blood sugar will need to be monitored. If severe exposure occurred resulting in coma, emergent and aggressive interventions will be necessary.

Generally a definitive diagnosis is based upon history, clinical signs, and physical exam findings. Please do not be afraid to tell the veterinarian if you use marijuana or if there is marijuana in the household! This information is confidential and only used to best treat your pet. Unfortunately, the use of human over the counter urine tests for marijuana are commonly falsely negative due to the large number of metabolites produced by dogs.

Treatment is typically supportive in nature and will minimally include IV fluids and anti-nausea medication. Additional therapies may include: activated charcoal to bind any remaining toxin in the gastrointestinal tract, sedation in excited animals, and intralipid therapy in severe cases. If respiratory depression or coma develops, mechanical ventilation will be warranted.

Prevention of marijuana toxicity in your pets is best achieved by eliminating their exposure to the substance in all of its forms. Owners should dispose of marijuana remnants, or marijuana containing products safely. Keeping pets out of the area where marijuana use may occur is important. Individuals using marijuana should refrain from blowing smoke directly into the face of pets. Do not feed your pets baked goods containing marijuana.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your pet and its condition, do not hesitate to contact the GSVS Emergency and Critical Care Department.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

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