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My dog ate weed. What should I do? We asked veterinarians how cannabis affects canines

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So, Fido found your stash.

There are probably a lot of “what ifs” bouncing around in your head right now. We’ll get to those, but here’s the bottom line: If your dog eats any amount of cannabis in any form, call your local veterinary clinic (or, if after hours, emergency veterinary clinic) or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)’s Animal Poison Control Center immediately. The sooner you get your pet treated, the better.

How do we know?

As more people are using cannabis around the country, more dogs are exposed to weed. In 2019, the ASPCA reported a significant increase in calls about pets consuming cannabis, noting 765 percent more calls on the subject in the first few months of that year than in the same period the previous year.

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The nonprofit said these high numbers were “likely to continue” as more states legalized medical and recreational cannabis around the country.

In light of this growing trend, we made a one-stop guide for Americans dealing with a pot-snatching pooch. We spoke with pet health experts Dr. Lara Davies, Veterinarian at Firefly Veterinary Hospital in Manhattan, and Dr. Laura Robinson, Lead Veterinary Advisor to Pawp, an online veterinary clinic, to answer the most pressing questions dog owners face on cannabis.

Can my dog get high?

Yes, dogs can get high.

But the psychoactive effects of THC won’t set in for dogs until 30 to 90 minutes after consumption, so if your dog doesn’t immediately look unwell after eating weed, don’t be fooled.

According to Davies, cannabis intoxication in dogs commonly manifests itself through wobbly, uncoordinated movements, urinary incontinence, hyperactivity, and disorientation. Dogs have been known to be “very vocal” while high, and have a “spacey” look. Their pupils may dilate, they may vomit or drool excessively, and their breathing rate may slow.

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In severe cases, Davies said, dogs may experience tremors, seizures, or go into a coma, but these effects are less common. Treating intoxication as early as possible can help protect your dog from these outcomes.

What if my dog only ate a little bit of weed?

Like with people, cannabis affects dogs in different ways depending on their health and body type. A little bit of weed consumed by a small, senior dog may have a stronger effect than it would for a larger, younger dog, Davies told GreenState.

Additionally, certain types of cannabis products are more dangerous for dogs than others. While raw flower can get your dog high, cannabis edibles can do a lot worse. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, as is xylitol, an artificial sweetener commonly found in cannabis gummies and baked goods.

Dogs can also become intoxicated from secondhand smoke. If your dog begins showing signs of intoxication after you’ve smoked pot near them, call a veterinarian right away.

Davies advises owners to hedge their bets on this one. Since the effects of cannabis vary dramatically depending on what product is consumed and the animal that consumes it, it’s wise to call your veterinarian regardless of the situation.

What if my dog eats CBD?

CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabis compound known for its anti-inflammatory properties, is being used by pet owners around the country to treat certain ailments in dogs and other animals. So if your dog breaks into your CBD stash, is it really so bad?

According to Robinson, probably not. But you should still seek medical help if your dog consumes a lot of it.

“CBD is not psychoactive like THC, so it shouldn’t make your dog high like THC would,” Robinson told GreenState. “Vomiting, lethargy, inappetence, and diarrhea are the most common clinical signs reported after ingestion. Ataxia can occasionally occur with large ingestions.”

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Robinson said that if your dog consumes more than the recommended dose of CBD, a veterinarian can induce vomiting and possibly prescribe medications so these adverse side effects do not occur.

Can my dog die of cannabis intoxication?

Death resulting from cannabis intoxication is extremely rare for dogs, but it is possible.

Davies, whose clinic treats cases of cannabis intoxication in dogs almost every month, says they have seen an increase in severe cases as more people are using medical-grade cannabis products with higher THC content.

I live in a state where cannabis is illegal. Will my veterinarian report my cannabis use to the police if I tell them my dog is intoxicated?

Fear of the law is a big reason why some dogs go untreated for cannabis intoxication, according to Robinson.

Many pet owners won’t admit to their veterinarian that their dog is high, or don’t seek any medical attention for an intoxicated pet, because they are afraid their veterinarian will report them for cannabis possession.

This, however, is a misconception. Veterinarians will only report a person to the police if they have reason to suspect cruelty, neglect, or any other form of abuse to the animal.

“We will not judge or report you,” Robinson said. “We see this all the time and just want your pet to be better. The symptoms of cannabis toxicity are pretty obvious, so most likely if you lie, we will have our hunches anyway and likely have to ask you. We can also test your dog’s urine for THC.”

How is cannabis intoxication treated in dogs?

If you’re able to get your dog to a clinic two to three hours after it’s consumed cannabis, Davies says the veterinarian may be able to induce vomiting and treat further absorption of the drug. Medication can be used to treat any nausea, seizures, diarrhea, and other symptoms cannabis may cause.

In almost every case, Davies says, intravenous fluid therapy is used to flush the system until the effects of the drug wear off.

How long will it take for my dog to recover from cannabis intoxication?

How long it takes for a dog to recover from cannabis intoxication largely depends on how quickly they are treated. The longer you wait to treat the dog, the worse the symptoms will become and the longer treatment will take.

Davies said she’s never treated a dog for cannabis intoxication who didn’t make a full recovery within 24 hours after consumption. Robinson, on the other hand, said the worst cases she’s seen have required intravenous fluid therapy for several days.

How can I keep my stash away from my dog?

As you may be all too aware, keeping your stash away from a pet is harder than it seems.

Like most of us, dogs love the smell of sugar, which is probably why Dr. Tina Wismer, Medical Director for the Animal Poison Control Center, said the recent surge in edibles closely resembling candy and baked goods has made weed products all the more enticing to dogs.

Davies said this makes it doubly important to keep your pot secure.

“Dogs have a great sense of smell,” Davies said. “They will try to get into sweet edibles and, out of curiosity, may ingest the flower. I recommend keeping the drug locked in a box and up high, away from where the dog can reach.”

She added that those who prefer to smoke weed should do so in a room separate from the dog with the door closed, since dogs can become intoxicated through secondhand smoke.

Robinson also suggested that pet owners keep cannabis “locked away” in a solid container a dog could not chew through.

 

While cannabis consumption for dogs is not typically a death sentence, it is something that can make them seriously ill if left untreated. If your dog eats cannabis in any form and of any quantity, the most responsible course of action is to seek medical guidance immediately.

If you are a cannabis consumer and pet owner, keep your stash in a non-penetrable container somewhere inaccessible to your pooch, and keep your local vet’s or animal poison control’s number in your contacts list in the event that your loot is discovered.

 

Elissa Esher is an editor at GreenState. Her work has also appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Guardian, Brooklyn Paper, Religion Unplugged, and Iridescent Women. Send inquiries and tips to elli.esher@greenstate.com.