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Marijuana intoxication in pets

Image of medical marijuana and rx pad

I’ve been thinking about writing on this topic for quite some time- especially after the state of Colorado and others passed laws which made recreational marijuana legal.  I decided to hold back on writing about the issue for a while, so that I could get some feedback from some close friends and colleagues who work in the veterinary industry in those states.  So, sorry about the delay on this blog- but please note, it’s been on the front burner for a while.

I feel that I must point out that I don’t care if you’re a recreational marijuana user. I’m not here to judge. I’m here to provide the best care and advice your pets. Whether you support the legalization of marijuana or you’re opposed to it, I’m not here to try to sway your opinion one way or the other. I am asking you to keep it away from your pets, as it is harmful. We’re talking about marijuana- not CBD oil or related products.  (I’m covering CBD products in a separate blog). As long as we are on the subject, though- please note that both dogs and cats are highly sensitive to the psycho-active chemical THC which is found in marijuana. CBD contains scant amounts of THC, if any at all. More on that in my next blog.

After speaking with my veterinary colleagues in the Rocky Mountain state, they confirm that cases of marijuana intoxication have spiked sharply since the law was passed. Although the consumption of marijuana by a dog or cat is rarely fatal, the damage that is done can be long-lasting- and expensive to treat. Before you ask- yes, we have seen a handful of intoxication cases at Highland Pet. Not nearly as many as my colleagues out west, but we have seen it.

It is difficult to predict what effects marijuana will have on any given pet.  Like most drugs, it will vary based on the pet’s size, the method of ingestion- (yes, pets can get stoned from the second hand smoke)- and their overall health.  If the marijuana has been baked into something- such as cookies or brownies- the effects could be worse when chocolate is involved, or other things like artificial sweeteners (xylitol) or other things that your pets can’t tolerate like macadamia nuts.

Your veterinarian is not here to ruin your party. As I said earlier, we’re here to care for your pet.  What happens at your place stays at your place. We have no intention of calling the cops if you tell us that your pet got into your stash or ate your plate of ‘special’ brownies.  We need you to be up-front and honest with us if it happened, so we can save time and administer care to your pet.  This information can also help us avoid having to run specialized (and expensive) tests to look for other causes of your pet’s lethargy or other symptoms they present.

Some of the common signs of marijuana intoxication include:

  • Loss of bladder control/incontinence
  • Unstable when walking or loss of balance
  • Low heart rate
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Dilated Pupils

For pets who already have a pre-existing cardiac or pulmonary condition, marijuana can cause serious complications or death. If you think that your pet is suffering from marijuana intoxication, call your veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian is not available, call your nearest emergency vet.

Marijuana differs from CBD oil and other CBD related products.  I am finalizing a separate blog on the differences between marijuana and CBD, and try to separate fact from fiction. Keep an eye out for that blog soon!