Marijuana toxicity in dogs

Marijuana (cannabis) contains more than 100 chemicals (or compounds) called cannabinoids. Dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains than humans do, which means the effects of cannabis on them are more dramatic and potentially more toxic. A small amount of cannabis is all it takes to cause toxicity in dogs. Affected animals usually get exposed by eating food contaminated with cannabis, breathing second-hand smoke or eating human feces contaminated with cannabis.

 Marijuana interferes with the brain’s ability to interpret its surroundings. Affected animals may be restless, nervous, hypersensitive to their surroundings and disoriented. Vomiting, diarrhea, urine leakage, tremors, wobbly stance, weakness and dilated pupils may occur. Signs usually last 18-72 hours.

Diagnosis is based on history of exposure and compatible clinical signs. You can also test the urine of dogs using store-bought drug tests, as marijuana compounds may be detected in the urine. To treat marijuana toxicity, it may be recommended to make your dog vomit. Inducing vomiting can only be helpful if the dog has been exposed somewhat recently. If he or she is already showing clinical signs, vomiting may be unsuccessful. Hospitalization may be recommended for supportive care to prevent self-trauma. Supportive care also includes IV fluids to help flush the toxins and giving activated charcoal to bind the toxin. Prognosis is excellent in most cases, with most effects going away after 18-72 hours.

Please do not hesitate to tell your veterinarian if your animal got into marijuana. It can be critically important in their treatment and can help save their life!

Dr. Karsten Fostvedt is a veterinarian at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum.

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