Marijuana Toxicity

The legalization of marijuana is sweeping the country.  Please keep in mind that regardless of legal status, marijuana is still poisonous to our pets.  Legalization definitely has increased the number of poisoning cases seen by veterinarians.  The pet poison helpline has experienced a 200 percent increase in the number of cases over the past 5 years.

While marijuana toxicity is unlikely to be lethal it still may require medical treatment to recover.  Pets may be exposed to marijuana through smoke, ingestion of the plant, ingestion of foods laced with marijuana such as brownies, candy, butter or cookies, or ingestion of products that contain hashish.  Additional problems may arise if a pet eats products that also contain chocolate.

The signs of marijuana poisoning begin about 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion or much sooner if inhaled.  Signs may include glassy eyes, stumbling and incoordination, vomiting, and pupil dilation.  They may also show signs of excitement and agitation.  Urine dribbling and incontinence may be seen.  More serious symptoms may be changes in heart rate, coma, tremors and seizures.

Recovery may take anywhere from 18-36 hours.  Treatment may involve hospitalization on intravenous fluids, anti-vomiting medications, oxygen, blood pressure monitoring, support of normal body temperature, and even respiratory support in severe cases.  Initial management may involve attempting to induce vomiting and administering activated charcoal.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to marijuana, please call your veterinarian and/or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 immediately.