By Alexis Patinos, Bluegrass Veterinary Specialists


With its legalization both medically and recreationally across the United States, marijuana is becoming more and more popular in American households. Unfortunately, this isn’t always great news for your furry companions if they happen to come across the popular green herb. The Pet Poison Hotline reported a 488% increase in marijuana ingestion cases over the last 6 years. With its rapidly growing popularity, here are some things we should know in regards to marijuana and its effects on our pets.

Although there are over 80 different cannabinoids found in marijuana plants, THC and CBD are two of the most commonly recognized, used and studied cannabinoids. We know that some of the key differences are that THC has psychotropic effects and has a moderate level of toxicity in most pets, while CBD is non-psychotropic, non-toxic and is becoming more widely accepted as a medicinal form of marijuana in pets. Animals can be poisoned by THC-containing marijuana in a variety of ways including ingesting edibles (such as THC infused butters, brownies or cookies), consuming the owner’s supply or by inhaling second hand smoke.

Both dogs and cats can be curious in nature, however dogs tend to be the more indiscriminate eaters, so they are more likely to eat a discarded joint, marijuana flowers or an edible and experience marijuana toxicity. Because dogs have larger concentrations of cannabinoid receptors than humans, they are more susceptible to the effects of THC-containing marijuana as well. The cannabinoid receptors are involved with things such as memory, appetite, and the sensation of pain. That being said, some common symptoms of marijuana toxicity include dilated pupils or glassy eyes, dazed expression, difficulty walking, vomiting, low or high heart rate, poor body temperature regulation, vocalization such as whining or crying, agitation, hypersensitivity, dribbling urine, tremors and in severe cases, seizures or coma.

Symptoms typically occur 30 minutes to several hours after the animal is exposed to the marijuana and signs can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours after exposure depending on how much was ingested and the size of the animal. More concentrated forms of THC-containing marijuana, such as edibles, typically have a more profound effect on animals than consuming the dried plant material or inhaling secondhand smoke.

While often not fatal, pet owners are still encouraged to seek veterinary care for their pet or consult with the Pet Poison Hotline after their pet has ingested or inhaled marijuana. Although some pet owners may be concerned about the legal consequences in regards to the marijuana, admitting when and how much THC-infused product your animal may have consumed or inhaled is crucial in helping the veterinarian outline a treatment plan for your pet. It is important to know that veterinary staff are primarily seeking to help your pet and will not pursue legal actions against pet owners when disclosing information regarding their pet’s consumption of marijuana. Accurate and complete medical history also ensures that only necessary treatments are performed, helping prevent unnecessary diagnostics and treatments to be performed and ultimately, minimizing costs to the client.

Although there is no cure for marijuana toxicity, veterinary staff are still able to provide your pet with supportive care during their recovery from the toxicity. Supportive care and hospitalization may include the administration of IV fluids to help keep the pet hydrated and promote excretion of toxins, thermoregulation, anti-nausea medications, anti-anxiety medications, medications to regulate the heart rate and respiration if needed and confinement to a small, quiet space to prevent noise overstimulation or injury from falling while in the disoriented, uncoordinated state. It can take anywhere from 18-36 hours for your pet to recover from the symptoms associated with marijuana toxicity.

Some tips for preventing marijuana toxicity in your pets include keeping any THC-infused edibles or dried marijuana plants far out of your pets reach or in a locked drawer when not in use. If marijuana is being smoked, be sure your pet is kept in a separate area with plenty of ventilation until the smoke clears. If you suspect your pet may have ingested marijuana, contact the Pet Poison Hotline at 855-886-7965 or visit your nearest emergency vet to provide your pet with supportive care during their recovery.