Your dog ate weed by accident. Now what?
A few years ago, my former housemateвЂ™s dog ate weed вЂ”В a cannabis-infused brownie, to be exact. She connected the dots when she noticed her normally docile, sweet-natured chihuahua mix fearfully snapping at anyone within reach вЂ” and the disappearance of the weed brownie she had stashed in her purse. The high wore off eventually, and luckily, her pupper was just fine. But what exactly happens when your pet accidentally eats weed, and whatвЂ™s the best way to handle it?
Amid the rising tide of cannabis legalization and growing acceptance of the substance overall, pet owners have probably begun asking themselves these questions more often. Indeed, thereвЂ™s evidence to suggest these accidents might become more common. One study found that during a steep rise in medical marijuana registrations in Colorado between 2005 and 2010, marijuana toxicosis cases in dogs quadrupled at two veterinary hospitals in the state.
Dogs are far more likely than any other pet to eat your weed brownie, Steven Friedenberg, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, tells Mic. вЂњWe see dogs being a lot more curious about things and interested in eating everything than many other species.вЂќ Cats, on the other hand, tend to be much more finicky about what they eat.
If your doggo does get into your stash, itвЂ™ll take roughly 30 minutes to an hour for the weed to take effect, says Karl Jandrey, a professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Intoxication in dogs looks similar, but not the same, as it does in their humans. Physically, they might have unusually dilated pupils, a slower heart rate, and difficulty walking, if they can walk at all. (In severe cases, they might just lie still.) They also often dribble urine uncontrollably. Behavior-wise, they tend to startle more easily and be warier of people they normally trust.
This heightened apprehension might explain why eating a weed brownie made my old housemateвЂ™s dog so aggro, although Jandrey notes itвЂ™s more common for weed to result in a general lethargy. But chocolate, which is toxic to dogs, can cause agitation, Friedenberg says вЂ” so the chocolate in the brownie might have played a role.
It also matters whether your Very Good (but very high) Boy or Girl ingested an edible versus flower. Since, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main inebriating compound in marijuana) is fat-soluble, a stick of weed butter or a brownie has a higher concentration of THC than an equivalent volume of, say, THC-infused seltzer вЂ” and will therefore mess up your pet more, according to Friedenberg. Size matters, too. вЂњThe smaller the animal, the more toxic,вЂќ Jandrey says. In other words, a weed brownie would probably have a smaller effect on a Great Dane than it did on my former housemateвЂ™s smol chihuahua mix.
Dogs have the ability to recycle a class of compounds called cannabinoids, which includes THC, in weed. When the dog eats their next meal, the bile gets secreted back into the intestines, basically re-exposing the them to the cannabinoids.
The effects of an edible high usually last for around 18 to 24 hours in dogs, Jandrey says; in humans, they last for only up to 12 hours, according to Harvard Health. Jandrey explains that dogs have the ability to recycle a class of compounds called cannabinoids, which includes THC, in weed. The cannabinoids get absorbed through the gut and later stored in the bile, important for digesting fats. When the dog eats their next meal, the bile gets secreted back into the intestines, basically re-exposing the them to the cannabinoids.
Dogs usually just sleep off the weed, Friedenberg says, but there have been some case reports of dogs dying from eating weed or weed-laden products. (The study of the Colorado veterinary hospitals reported the deaths of two dogs that had eaten weed butter in baked products.) Most were small dogs that consumed extremely high doses, which can cause respiratory depression, or slow, insufficient breathing. Friedenberg says such cases are rare, though.
So how do you know if you should take your fur baby to the doc, or if theyвЂ™ll be fine riding it out at home? вЂњI think for the most part, if youвЂ™re concerned about your animalвЂ™s health at all and not sure whatвЂ™s going on, the best thing to do is bring your dog to a veterinarian,вЂќ Friedenberg says. Let your vet know if youвЂ™re concerned that your pupper got a hold of your weed, so they actually know what your dog is dealing with and donвЂ™t run tests for a totally different condition. If youвЂ™re worried about the legal repercussions, Friedenberg says your vet probably wonвЂ™t care.
If youвЂ™re comfortable with your dog being mildly affected вЂ” вЂњa little wobbly, a little incontinentвЂќ вЂ” but mostly okay, and their symptoms donвЂ™t worsen, they probably donвЂ™t need veterinary attention, Jandrey says. Just make sure theyвЂ™re eating and drinking normally, Friedenberg adds.
But if your doggoвЂ™s symptoms worsen within an hour or two of you first noticing them, get to a vet, since they could worsen even further over the next few hours, Jandrey says. And if your dog is hard to rouse, or you struggle to get them to walk, Friedenberg suggests going to the hospital, where theyвЂ™ll likely be given an intravenous lipid solution that can help absorb THC in the bloodstream. Head to the ER if you have a small dog you suspect has eaten a high dose of weed.
To keep your pets from getting their paws on your weed in the first place, store it in a medicine cabinet, on a high shelf, or other hard-to-access spot, Friedenberg says. Take these precautions before you become impaired, rather than passing out and waking up to find your dog scarfed down the gummies you left on the counter in your edible-induced haze. Or, if you dog already tends to misbehave in general, consider keeping them crated when youвЂ™re not at home.
Since dogs will eat anything, even stuff you wouldnвЂ™t consider edible, remember to keep all cannabis products out of their reach. Jandrey recently treated a small dog that ate six joints, sneaking them from the coffee able while their human had some friends over to smoke. вЂњYou can never predict what an animal will do,вЂќ he says. They may not even be hungry, just inquisitive.
Basically, safeguard your pets from weed as you would kids from medications, Jandrey says. Seeing your fur baby high can be scary, but if they do get to your stash, theyвЂ™ll probably emerge on the other side just fine, like my old housemateвЂ™s dog, even if it takes a couple of hours.
This article was originally published on November 4, 2019
A few years ago, my former housemateвЂ™s dog ate weed вЂ”В a cannabis-infused brownie, to be exact. She connected the dots when she noticed her normally docile, sweet-natured chihuahua mix fearfully snapping at anyone within reach вЂ” and the disappearanceвЂ¦
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Weed
It was supposed to be a fun, carefree weekend. Sarah was hosting friends from out of town at her home in Nashville, and one of them had surprised the group with gummy edibles purchased in California.
The visit took a turn, however, when Sarah’s 3-pound Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix, Beans, got into the gummies and ingested about 50 milligrams of THC, the component in weed that gets you high. He quickly started showing signs that something was off ― drooling, impaired motor skills, inability to close his mouth, heavy eyelids.
“I felt so guilty! And just panicked!” Sarah, who wished to withhold her last name to talk about the incident, told HuffPost. “It was horrible because he looked so pathetic and out of it. In the moment, it was nothing short of harrowing.”
This kind of experience is becoming increasingly common as more states legalize recreational marijuana and the cannabis industry grows. In 2019, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center observed a 765% rise in calls about marijuana ingestion by animals over the same period last year, and Pet Poison Helpline has reported a 448% increase in marijuana cases over the past six years.
“Anecdotally, I’d say I’ve seen it becoming more common over the last two to three years,” Kenneth Drobatz, a p rofessor of critical care at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, told HuffPost. “We probably see a few of these cases a month.”
So what should you do if you find yourself in this situation with your dog? HuffPost asked Drobatz and other experts to share their recommended course of action.
Be Aware Of The Signs
Though pet owners may witness their dogs in the act of consuming cannabis edibles, there are many cases in which they aren’t aware of what has happened. It’s important to be aware of the signs of marijuana exposure.
“The effects of THC in pets can vary based on how much they consume and the level of concentration,” said Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society . He noted that signs include loss of balance, sensitivity to movement and sound, disorientation, hyperactivity, unusual or increased vocalization, drooling, uncontrolled urination, muscle tremors and, in rare cases, seizures or even a coma.
“They’re often wobbly and blinking. They can look very abnormal,” Drobatz said. “They clearly have this look like they’re looking around and not aware of what’s going on around them.”
If you know or suspect that your dog has consumed cannabis, it’s important to respond quickly.
“Marijuana on its own can be highly toxic for dogs, but some of the ingredients in edibles, like chocolate or the sugar substitute Xylitol, can be deadly,” said Michael San Filippo, a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Even without a concern about these added edible ingredients, marijuana on its own is a threat to our pets’ health,” he added. “Marijuana affects dogs differently than it does people. Some people think their dogs are experiencing the same high that people do. They’re not; they’re scared and sick and potentially in danger.”
Although these cases are very rare, there have been reports of pets dying after ingesting large amounts of THC, so medical interventions can be critical.
If you’re able to act within 15 minutes of ingestion, you should try to induce vomiting to get the marijuana out of the dog’s system.
Weitzman noted that hydrogen peroxide can help. “Give one teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide orally per 10 pounds of dog. Your dog should throw up within about 15 minutes,” he said.
Seek Professional Treatment
If you’re unable to make your dog vomit, veterinary hospitals have drugs that can induce emesis quickly. Even if your dog vomits at home, Weitzman advised taking the animal to a professional for further treatment.
“When your pet ingests any toxic substance, it’s crucial to get to your vet or an emergency vet hospital right away for treatment. It could save your pet’s life,” he said, adding that the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center hotline is a helpful resource as well.
San Filippo emphasized that dog owners should not be afraid to tell a veterinarian what happened ― even if they were unlawfully in possession of the marijuana. “We don’t have any interest in turning you in; we just want to save your dog’s life and help them recover.”
Let The Vet Determine A Plan
Drobatz explained that veterinarians may induce vomiting, but if too much time has passed, they’re hesitant because the dog could potentially aspirate.
Other courses of action include IV fluids and multiple doses of activated charcoal, which can bind to toxins and prevent them from being reabsorbed.
“There is no ‘antidote’ to marijuana, but veterinarians can limit the effects by decreasing further absorption of ingested marijuana through the use of activated charcoal and other methods of supportive care to keep them safe, comfortable and confined until they metabolize the drug,” San Filippo said.
“In some severely affected dogs, we may do intralipid therapy, but that’s rare,” Drobatz noted. “Most dogs just get IV fluids and monitoring.”
Make Sure It Won’t Happen Again
The process doesn’t end once your dog is happy and healthy again. Some pets will try to eat pretty much anything within their reach, even after a bad experience, so be mindful of where you keep things that could harm them.
“Just as you would with your medications, you want to keep marijuana and marijuana edibles safely out of reach,” San Filippo said. “Don’t get careless or lazy and leave loose joints or edibles out on a table or counter where curious dogs can easily reach them. They should be safely stored where dogs can’t reach and clearly labeled so other people know what these products are so they don’t leave them out for dogs to reach.”
Drobatz noted that household changes can lead to this situation as well. “We see this a lot during the holiday season when kids come home from college and bring home brownies or something like that,” he said.
Sarah’s dog vomited after ingesting her friend’s gummies, and after 24 hours of monitoring, he leaped out of bed and ran into the yard like any other day. Though she is grateful her dog didn’t suffer any long-term effects, Sarah told HuffPost that the experience taught her a valuable lesson.
“If I ever had anything like that again, I would definitely keep it secured in a high place in my kitchen where no animals can reach,” she said. “I’ve learned that if it’s in the house, the dogs are vulnerable.”
Veterinary experts share their advice for handling this increasingly common situation.