Dogs And Marijuana – A Guide For Dog Owners

Know the facts about Marijuana and dogs. If you don’t it could potentially cost you big bucks, and your dog a lot of misery. Or even worse, it could cost your dog its life.  We’ll examine how marijuana affects dogs, signs, and symptoms of exposure or ingestion and more.

What is Marijuana?

A Marijuana flower is shown in this photo.
Don’t give your dog the bud, or any other part of the Marijuana plant for that matter.

Marijuana or Pot, also known as weed comes from the Cannabis plant.  The plant has psychoactive components that induce feelings of elation, pleasure and also act to relieve pain.  There are three major species of the plant, and they are Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.  Ruderalis is native to Europe and Russia. Sativa is native to Eastern Asia. And Indica is from the Indian subcontinent.  Cannabis is cultivated worldwide for medical and recreational use.

Marijuana has a psychoactive ingredient called THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the primary reason people (and dogs) get ‘high’ from the drug.  Dogs have been known to eat pot in both the raw as well as edible forms. The edibles have a tendency to stay in a dog’s system longer. Perhaps this is due to the strong, synthesized dosage of THC. This is obviously the intended dosage for an adult human, not a dog.

How Marijuana Affects Dogs

A dog appears to be disoriented in this file photo.
Even small amounts of Marijuana can cause extreme reactions in dogs. Keep your dog safe.

The drug affects dogs in various ways, typically relative to the dosage the dog has ingested.  Marijuana is a depressant, and this shows in the drunken, uncoordinated state which can occur. Also, dogs get hyper-sensitive to sound, touch and likely (but we may never know) taste as well.  My personal experience with a dog that ingested pot was that it was also startled easily by fast-moving objects. This leads me to conclude that the dog experiences a definite effect upon the senses in general.  

Drunken State

Back to the drunken like state for a moment. The danger with pot and dogs is that if a dog has ingested more than their body can handle, the depressant nature of the drug can cause an almost paralysis-like state, rendering the dog unable to walk.  This is dangerous for the dog as I’m certain you can ascertain for yourself.

Incontinence

One of the other effects that weed has on dogs is that of causing incontinence.  My coworker described to me her experience. I talk about that later in the article. That is, how her dog stood in place with pee dribbling down its leg.

Strange Behaviour

The other effects of Marijuana on dogs is the obvious high they must feel but cannot describe to us.  This can cause the dog to become frightened as it doesn’t understand what is happening. Speaking of a dog getting frightened, I wrote an article on dog communication which I think you’ll find interesting and useful as well. 

Other Effects

The last effects, which are slightly rarer and I personally think are linked to the amount of pot the dog ate, are tremors/shaking, vomiting and potentially coma.  The tremors or shaking may be due to the effects of being ‘high’ causing the dog to be afraid, but I am just speculating on that point.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Dog Ingested Marijuana

“Don’t Panic.” (I’ve always been a fan of Douglas Adams).  Remember your dog may be high, so scaring it by panicking is not a great idea.  I’ve made a handy checklist to help you through this.  

  1. Did you witness the dog ingesting pot?  If no, skip ahead to step 4.
  2. Do you know how much your dog ingested? If no, skip ahead to step 4.
  3. Do you have a big dog or a small dog? If your dog only ate a small, tiny amount, and you have a large, healthy dog, it’s not likely you need to freak out over it.  Keep a close eye on your dog and if concerned consult a veterinarian.
  4. Is your dog showing signs of the effects of pot?  If your dog has ingested pot in one form or another, and it is showing symptoms, then it is too late to have a vet induce vomiting.  However, if you are not CERTAIN that your dog ingested pot, then consider taking your dog to an emergency vet clinic. Your dog may be suffering from another form of poisoning.  
  5. How long has it been since your dog either ate pot or started showing symptoms?  If your dog just ate some pot you could bring it to a vet and have them induce vomiting.  This has to be done within an hour or two of ingesting, otherwise, there’s no point as the dog will have digested and absorbed it already.
  6. If the dog ate pot and is showing symptoms, there is a concern. Have a veterinarian determine the severity of the situation.  Typically the dog will have to ‘ride it out’. But a vet can monitor the dogs’ condition and can help alleviate some of the dogs’ symptoms. 

Treatment

I recommend you seek immediate veterinary care for your pet. I am not a veterinarian and do not want to tell you to care for your pet on your own if your pet is poisoned by any substance. But here’s what typically happens.

A veterinarian will typically try to induce vomiting if the dog just ate pot (within the hour or two).  This can, of course, prevent the possible side effects. It is important to note that although you can induce vomiting in a dog with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution administered at .5mL -1mL per pound of weight.  NEVER attempt this without calling a veterinarian or poison control helpline first. You don’t want to cause more damage than good. And if you have a dog with a ‘smooshed face’ sort of breed, definitely call a vet as they have a greater chance of accidentally inhaling their vomit causing severe lung damage.

If symptoms are present, then it is too late to induce vomiting.  A veterinarian will typically help with some of the dogs’ symptoms. But inevitably the dog will have to ride it out.  If the poisoning is severe, the veterinarian will want to keep your dog overnight and may do some procedures. This may include providing fluids intravenously to help keep the dog stay hydrated.  As well, it is common to do bloodwork to make sure the symptoms are not being caused by something else other than cannabis.

Cost Of Veterinary Care

Piles of american bills are shown in this photo.
The cost of veterinary care can be quite expensive.

An accidental pot poisoning can be expensive.  When it happened to my dog, and we took the dog to the vet, it cost us $160 for an assessment.  The dog had to ride it out and obviously hadn’t gotten into too much. My coworker’s experience was not so similar.  Her dog must have gotten into a decent amount because it had severe symptoms and the bill was over $1000 from the vet to give IV fluids and run tests as well as administering a charcoal medicine of some sort that was to absorb the toxins.  If your dog is unlucky enough to have severe symptoms, it could run much higher in the cost of care. This is why you must be vigilant to keep your dog away from exposure to cannabis and potential poisoning.

Dogs And Marijuana – Two Case Studies

My Experience

About two years ago, my Yorkshire Terrier started acting as if drunken.  She was walking into things, very disoriented and had a severe lack of coordination.  She had extremely dilated pupils which led me to believe a poisoning event had occurred.  As my little furry child is a walking vacuum cleaner, I assumed she had picked something up on our walk which I hadn’t noticed.  As our dog has had other health issues including cancer, my wife and I thought it prudent to take the dog to the vet.

Veterinarian Visit

The veterinarian was kind and asked me within 30 seconds of seeing the dog if I smoked pot.  I asked why of course, and the vet said it appeared as though the dog was suffering from the effects of cannabis poisoning.  I told the veterinarian that I was not aware of the dog getting any marijuana and the vet then asked me when I had walked the dog last. 

At that point, it was a couple or three hours before seeing the veterinarian. The vet mentioned that likely the dog ate a ‘roach’ while on our walk.  A roach is another name for the butt end of a cannabis cigarette, or joint as it is called. This can carry a large, semi-concentrated dose of THC as the oily substance left behind on the end of the joint.  A pot smoker may have carelessly tossed the joint as they were done with it and may have left it available for my dog to find.

The veterinarian deemed that my dog would likely be alright and they could run some tests.  They went ahead with a blood test. If I recall correctly, it showed that she had no other health issues. Or signs of anything else causing the symptoms.  She advised us to take the dog home and keep an eye on her. The choice was that or we could leave her there for an additional fee. We opted for taking her home as her symptoms were not worsening. Her heart rate was a little low but alright and her temperature and other vitals were all stable.  As my father was a veterinarian, I have some experience with care and diagnosis of animals so I felt pretty confident I would be able to keep an eye on my stoned poochy.

Taking The Dog Home

All that being said, we took my dog home and she remained in a stoned condition for several hours and went to sleep.  She likely had an incredibly good sleep because she slept for I think about 16 hours. I checked on her periodically to make sure she was okay (naturally I woke her in the process) and she was fine.  The next day it was like nothing happened. Although I did notice one of my neighbors smoking a joint about a week later, so I know where the roach likely came from. That being said, if you do smoke weed, take care not to throw the butts away but dispose of them in an ashtray and later (when cold and obviously not burning) into the garbage away from dogs and other pets.

My Coworkers Story

So I was chatting with my coworker Laurie, and she was telling me her experience with her dog that ate Marijuana.  She noticed her dog starting to act funny and thought maybe it was having a stroke. Laurie described to me what the symptoms were.  She said that the dog started by acting as though it was drunk. They were outside at the time. She told me that her dog was staring up at the sky and started peeing itself.  I was told that her dog was peeing on its own leg and seemed not to even notice. 

Difficulty Concentrating

She tried to get the dog’s attention with its favorite frisbee.  Laurie told me that her dog would always get super excited for her frisbee.  Laurie threw the frisbee and the dog watched it sail, and didn’t budge from its spot. The dog started having extreme difficulty walking and at this point in time, she determined that she had better go to the vet.  

Veterinary Care

The veterinarian started an intravenous line and monitored the dogs’ vitals.  They pumped the dogs’ stomach and administered medication. They kept the dog for several hours and performed further tests.  After a long day, they brought the dog home and were left paying a bill of $1000.00. Some dogs are affected differently than others by Cannabis and it can cost you large, as you can see.  Not to mention the poor dog has to experience something it didn’t sign up for.

Conclusion

Keep your dog away from Marijuana.  When you are walking your dog, keep an eye out for what your dog is getting his or her nose into.  If you see anything suspicious, don’t let your dog near it. And if you do suspect that your dog has ingested Cannabis, I recommend taking your dog to the vet to be safe.  If you smoke Marijuana, make sure you keep it in a safe place that is both child-proof and also dog-proof. Make sure you dispose of any left-overs like butts in an appropriate and safe way. You want to make sure that both children and your pets won’t have any access to them.

Bibliography

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© 2019 – 2020, Jeremy Shantz. All rights reserved.

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