Oct 01

Marijuana Ingestion by Dogs on the Rise

Marijuana Ingestion by Dogs on the Rise

This past February with the passing of Initiative 71, Washington D.C. residents are now allowed to have up to two ounces of marijuana for their personal usage.  Similar measures have been passed in both Colorado as well as Washington states in the last two years.  Consequently, veterinarians are seeing an increase in marijuana ingestion in dogs.

A study published by the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, examined dogs presenting to Colorado veterinary facilities for marijuana ingestion.  They found between the years of 2005-2010 there was a fourfold increase in the numbers of dogs affected.  Both Pet Poison Hotline and ASPCA Poison Control have also reported a 200% increase in the numbers of calls to their services regarding marijuana ingestion.

Marijuana poisoning can occur from ingestion of marijuana cigarettes (roaches), foods laced with marijuana (brownies, cookies, butter), THC wax, the dried plant, or even liquids meant for E-cigarettes.  These ingestions are usually accidental with dogs inadvertently getting exposed.  Dogs can also be affected by inhalation of the smoke if they are in the vicinity of their owners.

What does my dog look like if it’s been affected by marijuana poisoning?

Dogs may present with dilated glassy appearing eyes, in-coordination, extreme lethargy, and dribbling urine.  Some dogs may actually have excitement or hyper sensitivity to lights, noise, and activity.  Serious side effects can include very slow heart rate, low blood pressure, tremors, seizures, and coma.

Will my dog die?

Marijuana has a wide margin of safety, meaning that the majority of dogs will do just fine.  In the study mentioned above, two small dogs did pass away from their exposure.  These dogs had ingested very large quantities of more pure forms of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.  As more concentrated formulations become available, (i.e.: those meant for cooking or with use by E cigarettes) the potential for larger exposures can occur.

What will you do for my pet?

Clinical signs can occur 30-60 minutes after ingestion so inducing vomiting is not recommended usually.  Treatment is largely supportive and symptomatic with intravenous fluids to support heart rate and blood pressure, heat support, and potentially activated charcoal to bind anything remaining in the GI tract from further absorption.  If the marijuana was laced with anything else (other stimulants, chocolate, butter, etc.), the pet will be monitored closely for developing additional clinical signs such as pancreatitis or chocolate toxicity.  Each patient is case dependent, but the majority of cases require anywhere between 18-24 hours of hospitalization.

Will you or the staff at Friendship call the police on me or report me?

No, as veterinary professionals we are not required to report these types of accidental ingestions.  We would prefer that you be open and honest with us to help your pet.  With more information regarding the possible exposure, we can hopefully tailor a better treatment plan for your animal.



Dr. Christine Klippen received a BS in Animal Sciences from Colorado State and a BS in Nursing from George Mason University.  She attended Colorado State University for veterinary school and has been working in specialty hospitals since 2009.  Dr. Klippen is part of our Emergency & Critical Care team and has a special interest in critical care, toxicology, trauma and education.



*Featured image courtesy of Que Beck Yoto.

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