Marijuana has become increasingly popular in recent years, and as a result, there has been a rise in cases of dogs ingesting the drug. This is particularly concerning, as marijuana can be toxic to dogs and can lead to a range of health problems.
The number of cases of pot intoxication in dogs has risen dramatically in recent decades. Especially here in New York City, where tracings of the drug seem to be scattered among the streets and in the parks. Fortunately, it’s rarely fatal, but it can bring about some worrying symptoms, and you should always seek veterinary advice if you suspect your dog has ingested this drug.
In this blog post, we will discuss the dangers of dogs ingesting marijuana and what you can do to keep dog safe and prevent it.
Why Has There Been Such an Increase in Reported Cases?
As a result of the drug’s increased accessibility over the years, there has been a significant increase in the reports of dogs suffering from cannabis toxicity. The Animal Poison Control Center, for example, reported a staggering 765% increase in calls about pets ingesting marijuana in 2019, compared with the same period the previous year.
The increase in reported cases even prompted a retrospective clinical study that evaluated the trends of marijuana toxicosis in dogs living in a state with legalized medical marijuana usage between 2005 and 2010. There was a concerning four-fold increase in the number of cases reported to the two Colorado veterinary hospitals that were the focus of the study.
Marijuana for Dogs: What’s In It?
The active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for its psychoactive effects. Marijuana comes from a plant called hemp. Its scientific name is Cannabis sativa. Marijuana plant refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis plant.
When dogs ingest it, THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in their brain and causes a range of clinical signs and symptoms. These can include lethargy, loss of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures. In severe cases, dogs can become comatose or even die.
However, your dog can also suffer poisoning from eating any part of the actual plant (including the leaves, seeds, stems, and flowers), from secondhand smoke inhalation, consuming hashish oil, or even from eating the feces of an individual that has ingested cannabis.
One of the reasons why marijuana can be so dangerous for dogs is that they are much more sensitive to THC than humans are. While a small amount of marijuana may only cause mild symptoms in a human, the same amount can be extremely toxic to a dog. In addition, dogs are more likely to ingest large amounts of marijuana at once, which can increase the risk of toxicity. It has been recommended to induce vomiting if ingestion is suspected.
A Dog's Symptoms of Marijuana Poisoning
Stumbling and crossing over feet
Dull and lethargic
Tremors and shaking
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the potent psychoactive substance in marijuana and dogs have a much more severe reaction to this than humans. Symptoms are typically visible within 30 minutes to an hour after ingestion of the drug, or sooner if inhaled. Other possible symptoms include vomiting, tremors and shaking, agitation, and some dogs can become comatose.
More than 95 percent of the veterinary medicine patients seen for marijuana toxicity are dogs, and almost all exposed animals will exhibit neurological signs. The most common clinical signs of ingested marijuana are stumbling, uncontrollable urine dribbling, drooling, low body temperature, low blood pressure, and an increased response to stimulation.
How Much Marijuana is Toxic to Dogs?
The minimum lethal oral dose for dogs for THC is more than 3 g/kg. Although the drug has a high margin of safety, deaths have been seen after ingestion of food products containing the more concentrated medical-grade THC butter.
Other Concerns About Marijuana Ingestion
Another concern with dogs ingesting marijuana, cbd oil, or THC products is that they may also ingest other harmful substances. For example, if a dog eats a marijuana edible that also contains chocolate, this can lead to additional health problems. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs and can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.
Preventing dogs from ingesting weed (as well as other toxic or problematic substances) is essential for their health and safety. One of the best ways to do this is to keep marijuana products out of reach of dogs. This includes not only buds but also edibles, tinctures, and other products that contain THC. If you have marijuana in your home, make sure it is stored in a secure location where your dog cannot access it.
Treatment of Marijuana Poisoning in Dogs
Treatment is quite variable depending on the severity of the symptoms presented, and some dogs can be treated as outpatients at home, while others will require hospitalization for intravenous fluids and supportive care.
In severely affected animals, it is recommended to undergo a treatment called intralipid therapy, which is an infusion of lipid (the fat used in IV fluids for nutrition support) to help bind the marijuana and allow it to be eliminated from the body faster. This depends on the dog's body and size.
With proper treatment, dogs will usually recover fully within one to two days.
Why It’s Important to Seek Veterinary Support
Marijuana toxicosis is rarely deadly, and reports of a fatality from marijuana ingestion alone have not been reported. However, a high proportion of the cases of marijuana toxicosis in dogs involve combining the drug with chocolate or artificial sweeteners like Xylitol—both of which are also toxic to dogs—in the form of brownies or cookies.
It’s worth noting that medical-grade marijuana butter products may present a higher risk of more serious symptoms. These butters are commonly mixed into cakes and cookies.
Regardless of how your dog’s marijuana ingestion occurs, you should always seek veterinary advice. Because the potency of marijuana is variable and the amount in edibles is not regulated by a regulatory agency, it is very hard to know exactly how much a dog has ingested.
With that said, we also do not know a toxic or fatal dose when inhaled or ingested, so if your dog ingests or inhales marijuana, it is always best to have a pet evaluated by a vet immediately.
How To Stop A Dog From Eating Everything
1. “Leave it” Command
“Leave it” tells your dog that they’re not allowed to take a particular item — but you must “proof the cue” (aka, get your dog to respond to a cue in all situations) until they’ve mastered it. You’re probably thinking, “I’ve already tried to teach my dog to do this. It just doesn’t work a lot of the time, especially when they find something extra-special.”
Teaching a dog to do something is one part of dog training, but most of the effort is about getting them to do it regardless of what else is going on — in other words, helping them succeed no matter how distracting the environment and how enticing the treasure. Working with a trainer will make it far more likely that you can successfully prove your dog’s “leave it” so you can use it when it really matters.
2. Reward Your Dog for Paying Attention.
When you’re out on walks, in the yard, or anywhere your dog may be distracted by things to eat, make it worth their while to check in with you. When your dog looks at you, give them something amazing, such as a chunk of real chicken, a small piece of steak, or a bone to chew. In a world filled with interesting things to smell and eat, you have to offer items good enough to compete.
3. Walk in Areas with Fewer Temptations.
Every place you walk your dog(s) may have objects that you don’t want them to inhale, especially in a city setting. But some spots are worse than others. Choose places that offer the fewest temptations in the way of trash and other dangers. Completely avoid areas that could have toxic items. If your walks include less-traveled roads, one option is to walk in the roadway to avoid surprises hiding in hedges or on people’s lawns.
4. Consider Using a Soft Muzzle.
Sometimes people stop walking their dogs because of the risk that their dog will snarf up something truly dangerous. While that’s better than a medical emergency, not walking your dog can compromise their quality of life. Another option is to physically prevent your dog from being able to ingest these dangers.
One barrier is a muzzle. Many people are reluctant to use one because they worry others will think their dog is aggressive, but if you are doing something to save your dog from harm, it’s the smarter option and there is no shame.
It’s important that the muzzle doesn’t interfere with your dog’s ability to pant to cool themself off, so choose a basket muzzle rather than a cloth one. A mesh OutFox Field Guard— originally made for a protection against dangerous foxtailawns — can also keep dogs from ingesting rocks, worms, trash, and all the other temptations out there. It is a mesh covering for a dog’s entire head that does not interfere with panting, sniffing, playing, or drinking.
Other Toxic Items Found on the Street:
Grapes and raisins
Xylitol, or gum/candy with artificial sweeteners
Other medications, pills, and over-the-counter drugs
Unfortunately, many baits used to lure and kill rodents in cities can also look tasty to our pets. If ingested by dogs, they can cause severe problems. The symptoms depend on the nature of the poison, and signs may not start for several days after consumption. In some instances, the dog may have eaten the poisoned rodent, and not been directly exposed to the toxin.
Though dog owners are used to having to steer nosy pets away from trash, food and other dangers on the sidewalk in city dwellings, marijuana is a new risk that’s suddenly everywhere.
The dangers of dogs ingesting marijuana cannot be overstated. In places where recreational use is legal, dogs are getting sick from eating the remains of joints and other cannabis products.
THC can be extremely toxic to dogs and can cause a range of health problems. By taking steps to prevent your dog from ingesting marijuana and being aware of the symptoms of toxicity, you can help keep your furry friend safe and healthy.
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