Marijuana Toxicity in Pets

 In Pet Talk: In the News

brown dog with eyes closedAt this point, I’m sure we have all seen a meme similar to the one on the right:

Well the sad truth is that marijuana can be very toxic to our pets.  The active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is what is so very toxic to dogs and cats.  When ingested or inhaled, THC can affect the animal’s neurologic status and if ingested can also affect the gastrointestinal tract.

Most toxicities that we as veterinarians witness are secondary to ingestion; however owners should be aware of toxicity that can occur by inhalation and try to prevent them as much as possible.  Ingestion of the leaves and flowering parts of the plant contain the most THC.

Dogs and cats that have marijuana toxicity may show the follow symptoms: weakness, difficulty walking, hypersensitivity/hyperesthesia, lethargy, dribbling urine, vomiting or trembling. In severe cases, animals can go into a comatose state.

These clinical signs can start as early as minutes after ingestion/inhalation and last up to 72 hours in severe cases.  If the animals ingested the marijuana in the form of baked goods such as a brownie or cookie, special consideration should be taken to ensure chocolate toxicity is not occurring as well.

Treatment for marijuana toxicity may vary depending on the magnitude of the toxicity and the clinical signs the pet is experiencing.  If you know toxicity has occurred it is imperative that a veterinarian evaluate your pet.  If the pet can swallow, activated charcoal may be given to aid in detoxification. Intravenous fluids, medications, heat or cooling support, oxygen supplementation are all sometimes necessary if the pet has central nervous depression, cannot regulate body function or if not eating/drinking.

Prognosis is very good if these pets get the proper treatment.

Kerri Wiedmeyer, DVM
WVRC Emergency Veterinarian

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