With the expansion of approval for the medical use of marijuana in more states, veterinarians are encountering an increase in cases of marijuana poisoning in pets. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, reported cases of marijuana exposure have increased over 200 percent over the past five years.
Pets may consume the dried plant material directly and are attracted to edible items containing marijuana. Secondhand marijuana smoke can also lead to intoxication. In general, fatalities are rare. However, poisonings, many of which require veterinary assistance, are not uncommon.
Signs of marijuana intake in dogs include vomiting, stumbling, dilated pupils and urinary incontinence. Some dogs will show excitement and agitated behavior, while severe cases can become comatose. Cardiac changes can also be detected. Signs of a problem generally show up about 30 to 60 minutes after a pet has ingested the marijuana. Signs may appear sooner if the pet has inhaled marijuana smoke.
If your pet has ingested marijuana very recently, a veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting. Activated charcoal may also be recommended to bind the toxins. Many pets benefit from intravenous or subcutaneous fluids to help flush out their bodies. Due to the possibility of heart-related symptoms, pets that have ingested marijuana should be monitored by a veterinarian to catch any changes immediately.
If you suspect your pet has ingested marijuana, seek veterinary assistance or contact a pet poison hotline. Immediate action minimizes risk to your pet. The best way to handle marijuana toxicities is to prevent them. Pets should not be exposed to marijuana smoke and should not have access to the dried plant material.