With the increase in both legal and illegal human use of marijuana the potential exposure of our pets to this drug is greater. Additionally, beyond plant material, marijuana is being refined into concentrate (i.e. hash, oils , waxes, and butter) and is produced into edibles and baked goods (i.e. cookies and brownies). These alternative products expose your pet to other potential toxins like methylxanthine in chocolate. Marijuana’s toxicity originates from delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Symptoms (Clinical Signs)
Unlike humans dogs react differently to this drug. The most common clinical signs are lethargy, depression and ataxia (stumbling). In addition, dogs produce a unique THC metabolite causing urinary incontinence. About 25% of dogs may exhibit the opposite typical behavior and become hyperexcitable and aggitated. Other clinical signs include disorientation, tremors, slow heart rate, low body temperature, dilated pupils and excessive sensitivity especially of the skin and motion.
Concentrated products, as mentioned above, can cause severe neurological and cardiovascular symptoms including low blood pressure and comas.
Symptoms can for 30 minutes up to 3 days (72 hours) and are rarely fatal but is dependent on the amount of ingestion and concentration.
Because marijuana symptoms can initially mimic ethylene glycol toxicosis (radiator fluid / antifreeze ingestion) diagnostic test may be recommended. Ethylene glycol toxicosis leads to fatal acute renal failure if not treated early and appropriately.
There is a commercially available urine test that can be helpful in diagnosis when exposure and ingestion is unknown.
Other human medications that can cause similar symptoms include methamphetamine, anxiety and antidepressant medications.
Because marijuana as a drug acts to reduce nausea and vomiting inducing vomiting can be difficult. Induced vomiting is appropriate under certain circumstances but should be done under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Intravenous fluids can be given as supportive care to correct low blood pressure or dehydration. Sedative drugs can be given under the care of a veterinarian for highly agitated / excited dogs.
Full recovery occurs within 72 hours or less and fatalities are extremely rare.
It is important to understand that as veterinarians our primary responsibility to is provide care for your pet and not enforce drug laws. It is important that we receive full disclosure of your pet’s possible exposure to drugs so we can treat them appropriately. We will consider this information confidential.