Since the legalization of marijuana in some states, veterinarians are reporting more cases of accidental marijuana poisonings than ever before. And, the problem isn’t only confined to those states, either.
Currently, the use of recreational marijuana is now legal in at least some form in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. It’s also been decriminalized in additional states with varying weight limits.
No matter where you stand on the recreational or medical use of marijuana, one thing is clear, the number of dogs being poisoned is increasing and all dog owners need to be aware of the signs of marijuana poisoning.
According to the Animal Poison Control Center, calls for pets ingesting marijuana were up 765% since 2019. The Pet Poison Helpline experienced a 450% increase from six years prior. That is a huge jump in calls in a very short time.
Since marijuana is toxic for dogs and they should never ingest it or an edible in any amount. Unfortunately, some dogs are attracted to it and will willingly eat it when given the opportunity and of course, edibles are even more enticing.
Fortunately, marijuana poisoning is usually not fatal in dogs but can result in an expensive vet bill and overall frightening experience for both dog and owner. Such as what happened recently to news personality, Dana Perino, and her 4-month-old Vizsla puppy named Percy.
The accidental ingestion happened while Dana and Percy were on a walk in a New York park. The curious pup must have somehow picked up a little pot or discarded edible off the ground and ate it without Perino’s knowledge, as all dogs can so easily do.
Luckily, in Dana and Percy’s case, Percy was immediately rushed to the vet when he began to show signs of illness. A diagnosis of marijuana poisoning was quickly made and treatment started. To the delight of all, after a hospital stay, Percy made a full recovery but prior, his symptoms were dramatic and alarming to witness.
What are the signs of marijuana poisoning in dogs?
The symptoms of marijuana poisoning in dogs can include, not in any particular order of progression:
- Urinary incontinence
- Ataxia, wobbly gait
- Large pupils
- Slow or fast heart rate
The clinical signs of marijuana toxicity usually occur within 30-60 minutes of ingestion and can last for 24-72 hours depending on the amount ingested and the size of the dog.
Why is marijuana toxic to dogs?
The toxic principle of marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol otherwise known as THC. This is the chemical in pot that gives users their “high.” The amount of THC can vary from plant to plant due to environmental factors, where the plant is grown, what species of plant it is, and more.
In the case of edibles, the THC can be more concentrated depending on the amount of THC contained in the edible and also varies depending on the strength of the edible and type of product. Some packages contain this information but others don’t. And, it’s obviously never available on homemade products so no matter what the person who made it says, they can never be assumed safe.
Marijuana poisoning occurs because THC is a lipid and fat soluble so it rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and distributes to other fat stores within the dog’s body. Once it’s absorbed, it is metabolized or broken down by the liver. But is also crosses the blood brain barrier and takes direct action on receptors within the brain, which often attributes to the clinical signs observed by marijuana toxicity.
According to Marty Goldstein, DVM, dogs are more sensitive to THC than humans are. He said, "They have more, what are called, cannabinoid receptors in their brain than humans do, so they’re a lot more sensitive to the THC component of marijuana. It’s potent in any way they can get it."
What should you do if your dog eats marijuana or an edible?
Dr. Goldstein suggests it’s better to be safe than sorry and to get the dog to the vet right away. However, if the dog just ate the pot, you may choose to induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide, but it is always recommended that you call your vet first. If the dog is not mentally aware or having seizures or other symptoms, this should be avoided to prevent aspiration pneumonia or choking. If it’s after hours and you can’t reach your vet, go to the nearest emergency hospital.
Once at the vet, they will most likely either induce vomiting, pump the stomach, give the dog activated charcoal, and may even use enemas just to get it out of the system. Very importantly, they will also give intravenous fluids which prevent dehydration and helps to flush the poisons out.
The dog will stay for the duration of treatment depending on their symptoms and how severe the poisoning was.
The best way to protect your dog is prevent accidental poisonings by keeping marijuana out of reach or locked up. Since poisonings are occurring more often by dogs being getting ahold of it out in public, be watchful over where your dog is walking and playing and do your best to prevent them from eating anything off the ground, especially in parks, busy streets, and other places where people may congregate.
The entire situation is scary to think about. The idea that any dog would be able to just pick up marijuana or an edible off the ground is terrifying since the possibility arises that the unsuspecting dog could also ingest more than pot since illegal drugs and opioid use is on the rise all over the country and is far deadlier.
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