Lucerne Veterinary Hospital Blog

My Dog Ate My Stash: Marijuana Toxicity Revisited


Glassy-eyed, stumbling, and afflicted with a sudden case of the munchies: while this may describe your neighbor’s teenage son, this is also becoming an increasingly accurate description of the family Golden Retriever. With the recently-approved referendum to legalize the use of recreational marijuana in the state of Maine, we may soon see a sharp rise in the incidence of marijuana toxicity. In states which have previously legalized marijuana, the number of accidental exposures by pets has greatly increased. In light of the increased availability of these potentially mind-altering drugs, we will revisit a previous blog post discussing what you need to know about the effects of marijuana in pets.

Pot and Pets – Is it Toxic?

There are several factors that determine the degree to which pot is toxic to a pet, but realistically, the plant-based forms of marijuana generally do not cause lethal health risks if ingested. However, the plant and its products can be toxic to pets, depending on how much was consumed, the weight, breed, health of your pet, and so forth.

Because your pet won’t inherently understand that the little plastic baggy is a no-no, marijuana should be stored safely out of reach, as should any drug or toxic household substance.

Getting back to toxicity…

Pots and Pets Chart

There are some forms of pot that increase the risk of harmful effects on your pet. For example, marijuana tinctures are becoming more popular for those who wish to utilize the benefits of cannabis without the health risks associated with smoking it. Tinctures may have a higher concentration of THC and often use alcohol as a base or stabilizer.

With increased levels of THC and the additional toxicity of alcohol, this form of marijuana is quite dangerous to pets and should be kept out of the home if possible, and away from your pets no matter what.

The other common alternative form of marijuana is “edibles”. Pot cookies, brownies, and other baked goods not only contain dangerous levels of THC, they often contain chocolate as a main ingredient. Chocolate poisoning is one of the most common poisonings in dogs. Chocolate contains the stimulants caffeine and theobromine, causing mild to even life-threatening symptoms in both cats and dogs. Marijuana butter is also a very potent form of the drug. While deaths from marijuana in pets are extremely rare, several fatalities have recently been reported after the ingestion of highly concentrated forms (such as marijuana-infused butter, known as “cannabutter”).

Please think twice about those marijuana-infused edibles and avoid keeping them anywhere your pet can access.

If your pet does ingest marijuana, and particularly in larger quantities or in edibles or tinctures, it is important that he or she be seen by a veterinarian. The best case scenario is that the effects will wear off within 3-6 hours; however, pot can present a life-threatening emergency in higher or concentrated doses. Likewise, do not delay in telling us what your pet has gotten into.  The more forthcoming you are with what has happened, the more quickly and efficiently we can help your four-legged friend.

Marijuana for Pets?

Another common question the veterinary community hears concerns the benefits of marijuana in treating pet cancers and glaucoma, or as an adjunct treatment option for chronic pain.

Unfortunately, there is not enough clinical data or research to clearly support medicinal cannabis as an effective option for pets. While there are some crusaders in the field of veterinary medicine who support the limited findings in favor of its use, we are still in the early stages of understanding diseases or conditions in pets that can be benefited by marijuana.

While medical and recreational marijuana use are oftentimes the basis of heated discussions, it’s important for concerned pet owners to feel comfortable discussing the realities of pot’s risk to pets and how to ensure the safety of their pets, should pot be present in the home.

We at Lucerne Veterinary Hospital welcome any additional questions you might have regarding pot and pets.  Please give us a call with any questions, or if your pet experiences an accidental exposure to marijuana or any other toxins.

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posted in:  Pet Emergencies  |  Pet Health  |  Toxins
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