Fall 2018

When Dogs Meet Edibles

As marijuana becomes legal in many parts of the U.S., here’s what you need to know about keeping your dog safe.

By Genevieve Rajewski

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Pot and dogs don’t mix. While it’s not life-threatening in low doses, THC (short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana) can make pets depressed, wobbly on their feet, sensitive to light and sound, and unable to hold their urine. THC can also affect a dog’s heart rate, body temperature, and breathing. In rare cases, tremors, seizures, coma, and death can occur.

Each month, the Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals treats twenty to twenty-five dogs with marijuana intoxication, said emergency and critical care veterinarian Elizabeth Rozanski. Clinicians can help these animals quickly if they know marijuana is the cause of their symptoms and, for that, they rely on their clients to give a full and accurate history. (Point-of-care drug tests for pets exist, but these do not always accurately detect exposure.) “As with any toxin exposure, knowing how much the pet possibly got into and how long ago is helpful,” Rozanski said.

With good information, veterinarians can provide supportive care to dogs suffering from marijuana intoxication: IV fluids to keep their bodies hydrated and working to flush out the drug; medications to address anxiety and THC’s effects on the heart and respiration; and a safe, quiet, and dark space to weather the uncomfortable high. In particularly bad cases, veterinarians will administer lipid therapy through an IV. These tiny fat molecules bind with the THC in the pet’s bloodstream, allowing the body to shed a large quantity of the chemical faster.

With medical marijuana becoming more common, Rozanski noted, there are more opportunities for pets to be exposed. She said that edibles, such as cookies or brownies made with marijuana or infused with THC, are especially tempting to dogs. “They think it is food,” Rozanski said. Some infused products also contain extremely high concentrations of THC, which make them riskier for pets. Rozanski’s best advice, for whatever kind of marijuana product consumers have at home, is to keep them all safely locked away.


Marijuana by the Numbers


Number of U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C., where medical marijuana is legal


Number of states where recreational marijuana is legal


Increase in marijuana-related calls to the Pet Poison Hotline over the past six years


If you suspect your pet has been exposed to marijuana or any other poisonous substance, immediately call your veterinarian, a veterinary ER, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

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