I thought it may be a good idea to share my concerns as a veterinarian on the legalization of marijuana, I don’t like marijuana, legal or not, it poses a risk to my patients. According to Pet Poison Control there has been a 448% increase in marijuana cases over the last 6 years since it has been legalized.
“Toxic to dogs?” you ask….YES! I have had discussions with young and old who are of the thinking that it’s been around forever and we haven’t heard of poisoning of dogs. Did you know there is a higher concentration of the active ingredient (THC) than in the past? Depending on what part of the plant is used and which group is doing the study, it is 2-7 times stronger. In quite a few studies published by anti-marijuana groups, it is up to 30% stronger (likely medical grades were in the studies). To me, it means yes it is stronger and therefore more dangerous for my patients!
A pet can be poisoned by marijuana in different ways; ingesting edibles such as brownies or pot butter, eating their owner’s supply, the plant itself, or by secondhand smoke. If you are going to use marijuana in any form, keep it in closed high cabinets or a locked drawer. Accidents happen, but it is disappointing to me to think that a loving pet owner thinks it would be funny to get their pet high, SO DON’T!
Signs of toxicity in pets include sedation, dilated pupils, difficulty walking, vomiting, crying, agitation, trouble regulating body temperature, dribbling urine, seizures, coma or death! These symptoms can start anywhere from 5 minutes to 12 hours after exposure and can last 30 minutes to several days depending on the dosage. There is no test to detect marijuana levels in pets, so I rely on your honest history.
If you have an accidental ingestion come straight in. We didn’t notify the police when it was illegal, we aren’t going to now that it is legal or announce it to the lobby. We are here to help, not judge. Many times I have seen (and smelled) clients that are somewhat out of it but scared to death at the terrible state of their dog. I ask if marijuana is possible and they deny it. Treatment is quicker if I know ingestion has occurred or even if you aren’t sure that it is a possibility. If I don’t know I have to run unnecessary tests to make sure it isn’t a list of other toxins or diseases.
There is no antidote for marijuana toxicity. Treatment can be done here at Long Lake Animal Hospital which involves supportive care. Initially, we may induce vomiting if it is early and there are no symptoms; this could avoid all toxicity signs. We may administer activated charcoal to bind the toxins in the stomach if symptoms have already started. We may need to help regulate body temperatures, administer IV fluids, monitor heart rate and treat for arrhythmia. THC is stored in body fat and broken down in the liver. It can take 30 minutes to several days for your pet to recover – not a fun time for them!
Dr. Lisa LaCross