Dogs have a way of getting into—and eating— things they’re not supposed to. Sometimes, your pup’s exploration and secret snacking just makes a mess. Other times, your dog may accidentally eat something that could be harmful to them. There are plenty of common foods and household items that can be toxic to your dog. Examples include chocolate, onions, macadamia nuts, avocado, grapes, and, yes, marijuana.
Now that marijuana is legal in so many places, it’s in a lot more homes. This means that many dog owners have a new concern: their dog finding their way into their legal cannabis stash. So, what should you do if your dog eats cannabis? Is it dangerous for your dog to eat marijuana? Are certain types or amounts of marijuana more dangerous for dogs than others?
When a dog eats marijuana, it’s usually not life-threatening. However, it can be. The cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, is toxic to dogs. In smaller quantities, THC may just make your dog feel very unwell for a while. But in larger quantities, THC can cause serious side effects in dogs, including seizures and coma. And, while it’s rare, high doses of marijuana can be fatal to dogs.
If you think your dog has eaten marijuana, you want to take this situation seriously, especially if it’s possible your dog ate a significant amount of THC. Below, we’re going over what you should do if your dog ate cannabis, starting with the most important step: contacting your vet. We’ll also go over some important information pet owners should know about marijuana toxicity in dogs, including the symptoms to look for and how a vet treats marijuana toxicity.
Contact Your Vet
Whenever your dog eats something they shouldn’t have, no matter what it is, you should contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control helpline immediately. Tell them what your dog ate, when they ate it, and any symptoms they may be experiencing. Be sure to answer their questions honestly and provide them with as much detail as possible about the specific marijuna product your dog ate, including:
- What Type of Marijuana Your Dog Ate: If you know what type of marijuana your dog ate, it’s very important to share this information with your veterinarian because THC levels can vary widely between products. For example, recreational marijuana flower has an average THC level of 10% to 20%, while marijuana concentrates can have a THC level of up to 99%. To give another example, a hemp-derived cannabidiol oil (CBD oil) may only have trace amounts of THC, but a medical marijuana brownie could have upwards of 50 mg of THC.
- How Much Marijuana You Think Your Dog Ate: You also want to share how much marijuana you think your dog may have eaten, since this affects the dosage they ingested. Did they eat the remnants of a mostly-smoked joint? Did they eat an entire high THC chocolate bar? Did they eat a few hemp CBD gummies?
- Other Ingredients in the Marijuana Product Your Dog Ate: Some cannabis products may contain other ingredients that could harm your dog. Edibles are particularly likely to contain ingredients that aren’t safe for dogs, such as chocolate or Xylitol (an artificial sweetener).
If you feel embarrassed to tell a vet that your dog ate marijuana, know that it’s important to push past this feeling in order to protect your dog’s health. Your vet needs this information in order to give your dog the best care, so be honest with them. If it helps, try to remember that this issue is not uncommon in the age of widespread marijuana legalization.
After you speak to your vet or an animal poison control expert, follow their recommendation. If they tell you to come in right away, do so. If your vet says that your dog doesn’t need to come in, you’ll still want to observe your pet at home and watch for any changes in their health.
Observe Your Pet’s Symptoms
Marijuana ingestion can cause a range of different symptoms in dogs. After your dog eats cannabis, you want to observe these symptoms and report them to your vet. If your pet exhibits any signs of severe marijuana poisoning, you’ll need to seek emergency veterinary care right away.
Small doses of marijuana may cause your dog to exhibit mild to moderate symptoms of marijuana ingestion, including:
- Agitation or Hyperactivity
- Changes in Body Temperature
- Changes in Heart Rate
- Dilated Pupils
- Sensitivity to Loud Noises
- Slowed Breathing
- Urinary Incontinence
Usually, mild to moderate symptoms will fade on their own with rest, time, and plenty of water. Still, tell your vet if your dog is experiencing these symptoms and follow their advice.
Higher doses of marijuana may cause your dog to exhibit severe, potentially life-threatening symptoms, including:
- Comatose State
If your dog exhibits any of these severe symptoms of mairjuana toxicity, seek emergency veterinary care immediately.
Don’t Hesitate To Take Your Dog To The Vet
If your dog is experiencing any of the serious side effects of marijuana ingestion, take them to an emergency veterinary medicine provider without hesitation. If you’re not sure whether or not your dog’s symptoms are serious, it’s probably a good idea to go to the emergency vet anyway. When it comes to your dog’s health, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Once you’re at the veterinarian, they’ll evaluate your dog. When checking for marijuana toxicity levels, a vet will usually perform blood work and do a urinalysis. They’ll probably also check your dog’s blood pressure and, if it’s possible that your dog also ate the container your marijuana was in, they may need to do diagnostic imaging.
If your dog just ate marijuana and isn’t experiencing symptoms yet, your vet may decide to induce vomiting using hydrogen peroxide. When done early enough, this may prevent the onset of symptoms.
Usually, a dog that ate marijuana will already be showing symptoms by the time you’re at the vet. In that case, the vet will treat your dog’s unique symptoms. This often comes in the form of supportive care. For example, they may give your dog IV fluids to help with dehydration or irregular blood pressure.
In more severe cases of marijuana toxicity or in cases where a dog also ate chocolate alongside marijuana, a veterinarian will generally take a more aggressive approach to treatment. Some examples of more intensive treatments include treatment with anticonvulsants, activated charcoal, or antiarrhythmics.
Rethink Your Marijuana Storage Strategy
Once you’re through this crisis situation, you should probably rethink your marijuana storage strategy. Dogs can be incredibly resourceful, so you need to make sure your cannabis is far out of their reach. Marijuana keeps best in a cool, dark, and dry place. So, find something that fits this description that your pet can’t get into, such as in an airtight container that you put deep inside a high cabinet. You may also want to consider keeping your cannabis in a container that a dog would have a very hard time getting open, like a firmly closed jar with a twist lid.
As a closing thought, we want to stress that everyone in your household needs to be careful about where they leave marijuana. This includes your roommate, your spouse, that new person you’re dating, your cousin who’s in town for the weekend, or anyone else who may handle cannabis around your dog. Make sure everyone knows to keep their marijuana out of your dog’s reach. No one should be leaving new or used cannabis products where your dog could find them. This includes partially smoked joints. Don’t leave those out on your coffee table, where dogs can (and very often do) eat them. Everyone in your household should store marijuana like it’s a medication, keeping it far out of reach of your inquisitive dog.
If My Dog Ate Cannabis?