Ask the Vet: Cannabis and Dogs

July 11, 2019

With the increased use of medical marijuana and the nationwide loosening of legal restrictions on the use of marijuana, there is an increased danger of harmful exposure to dogs and cats.

To prevent accidental harm to our Service Dogs, NEADS has prepared the following information:

Dogs and cats can be poisoned by cannabis (marijuana) by eating edibles (marijuana-laced food), inhaling second-hand smoke or eating the oil, dried or fresh leaves, and flowers directly. Most pet owners secure their cannabis products, but some pets may circumvent these safety precautions. Accurately telling the veterinarian when and how much marijuana was consumed or inhaled will help with an effective treatment plan in a timely manner.

Some of the effects of marijuana on pets include:

  • dribbling urine (most common sign)
  • stumbling (common sign)
  • staggering/inability to walk (common sign)
  • twitching
  • agitation
  • depression
  • dilation of pupils
  • diarrhea
  • drooling/vomiting
  • seizures
  • coma (not very common)
  • death (not very common)

THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is slowly released from fat stores within the body; therefore, mild to moderate symptoms may be seen for a few days post-exposure (typically 2–3, or more).  Treatment depends on the severity of the exposure, and can range from aggressive treatment (inducing vomiting, injectable medications, intravenous fluids and supportive care), to hospitalized supportive care (intravenous fluids and monitoring), to simply giving some subcutaneous fluids (fluids under the skin) and sending the dog home to be monitored.

To prevent accidental exposure to your dog, be sure to secure any product you have in your home/environment. If marijuana is vaped or smoked, be sure to do it in a space away from your dog, and, if indoors, preferably in a space your dog does not usually frequent, as residual smoke can also cause a problem.

Lastly, if you personally use cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes, be aware of your own abilities. Be sure that your use is not interfering with your ability to care for your dog or work with him/her appropriately and be sure not to drive under the influence of cannabis.