Marijuana Poisoning in Cats and Dogs

As of July 1, 2015, recreational marijuana has been made legal in Oregon.  If Washington and Colorado (where marijuana is also legal) are to be examples, veterinarians in Oregon should expect a significant increase in marijuana toxicity cases in pets, particularly dogs.  Dove Lewis has already seen a significant increase in toxicity cases “In 2011, DoveLewis veterinarians treated six patients diagnosed with the toxicity, and last year it treated 10. So far this year, the hospital already has treated 65 for the condition.” Click here to read more from The Oregonian.

by Dr. Yung

Marijuana poisoning in our pets is not benign.  Pets can experience extreme agitation, low blood pressure, low body temperature and respiratory depression that may need mechanical ventilator support.  While a fatal dose is uncommon, there is no established toxic dose so we don’t know if that “small ingestion” is not serious.  Owners should seek immediate veterinary care for their pets if ingestion is suspected.

How can your pet become poisoned by marijuana?

  • Inhalation of the smoke
  • Ingestion of the plant
  • Ingestion of products containing marijuana or hashish
  • Ingestion of foods containing marijuana such as brownies, cookies, candies, and butter.  When foods also contain chocolate, the risk of poisoning is increased.

NEVER leave a plate of marijuana-laced brownies or marijuana products out where your dog or cat can reach them!

Signs of toxicity can be quite alarming.  Here’s what to look for if you suspect marijuana poisoning:

  • Glassy eyes
  • Stumbling, lack of coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drowsiness or agitation, excitement- particularly hyper-reactiveness to stimuli
  • Urinary incontinence, dribbling urine in dogs
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • In severe cases, seizures and coma

Therapy for marijuana poisoning consists of decontamination and supportive care.  We may need to induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage – “pump the stomach” – and administer charcoal to bind the remainder of the toxin in the GI tract.  Pets will require an IV catheter and fluids to flush and dilute the THC, with careful monitoring of blood pressure, temperature, and respiration.  There is no antidote or reversal agent for marijuana toxicity.

Please keep marijuana and marijuana products away from all pets and children.  If your pet does ingest marijuana, please tell your veterinarian so that appropriate care can be instituted right away. We don’t know unless you tell us, as there is no test that will detect THC in veterinary patients.

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