What to Do if Your Pet Eats Marijuana

You may be aware that recreational marijuana was legalized in Arizona this year. The new law will likely increase the quantity and type of marijuana found in local Tucson households, making it easier for pets to accidentally ingest it.  Our doctors at Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (SAVS) are prepared to help.

Following legalization of marijuana in Colorado, veterinarians witnessed a spike in cases of marijuana ingestion by pets. Our experts want you to know about the risks and signs of marijuana intoxication in animals, but most importantly, for you to have a plan to prevent your pet from accidentally ingesting marijuana.  

Toxicity 

You’ve probably heard about THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the toxin in marijuana. This is the psychoactive component of marijuana that results in feeling “high.” Different types of marijuana have different potencies of THC. For example, the potency of marijuana flower is much less than what can be found in other forms like edibles or concentrates. Medical marijuana can be especially potent. While your pet might need to consume a lot of marijuana flower to become intoxicated, it might only take one small bite of a marijuana edible to cause a medical problem.  

When it comes to new forms of marijuana, you should also be aware of the toxicity of accompanying ingredients in the product. This includes chocolates, butters, sweeteners (xylitol), and other synthetic components of concentrates that could upset your pet’s digestive system.  

Symptoms 

If your pet consumes a low to moderate amount of marijuana, you likely do not need to bring him or her to an emergency clinic. In this case, make sure to stay with your pet for a few hours until their symptoms are gone. It’s important to avoid additional trouble like falling into a pool or hurting themselves while they are under the influence. 

Common symptoms of mild marijuana intoxication include:

  • Incoordination
  • Sensitivity to loud noises
  • Low heart rate
  • Dribbling urine
  • Dilation of the pupils
  • Low of high body temperature
  • Vomiting
  •  Irregular heartbeat
  • Urine retention

Large quantities of marijuana can cause serious medical problems in animals. If your pet is experiencing any of the following symptoms after ingesting marijuana, it’s critical you bring them to an emergency clinic as soon as possible. 

Symptoms of serious marijuana intoxication include: 

  • Tremors  
  • Seizures
  • Comatose state

You should also be aware of the symptoms of poisoning that result from other ingredients in marijuana products: 

Common symptoms of poisoning include: 

  •  Diarrhea
  •  Vomiting
  •  Excessive urination
  •  Increased thirst
  •  Restlessness
  • Elevated heart rate

Treatment  

If your pet is experiencing any serious symptoms of marijuana intoxication or poisoning, it’s critical that you seek emergency medical attention. In extreme cases, an emergency veterinarian may administer intra-lipid therapy. This treatment helps remove toxins by binding them to fat. Additional supportive measures may be included in the treatment protocol, for example IV fluids, blood pressure monitoring and anti-nausea medication. If you are concerned your animal consumed any foreign bodies, like packaging, the veterinarian will recommend internal imaging or X-ray. 

Medical treatment for marijuana intoxication: 

  • Blood work and urinalysis 
  • X-ray if there is a concern that the animal ingested packaging, etc. 
  • Blood pressure 
  • Hospitalization for continued monitoring 
  • Administration of fluids 
  • Cardiovascular support 
  • Regulation of temperature 
  • Anti-nausea medication

BEWARE! You may read advice online that says you can induce vomiting using 3% hydrogen peroxide. We do not encourage this response. Just a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide can poison your animal if not administered correctly and may be more dangerous than the marijuana alone.  

Prevention 

Don’t wait until there has been an accident before you develop a plan to prevent your animal from consuming marijuana. Marijuana products should always be in a sealed container and stored in a closed cabinet or safe where pets (and children!) cannot reach them. When you are consuming marijuana, it’s best to do so in a closed room where your pets cannot access. Imagine dropping a marijuana edible and your pet grabbing it before you can. After consuming, always return your products to their safe storage place.  

Like children, pets require extra care to ensure they don’t accidentally get hurt or consume items they shouldn’t. It’s your responsibility to keep them safe. A few extra steps will help you and your companion avoid a costly visit to the emergency clinic.  


At Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center we are happy to provide a wide range of veterinary specialty and emergency services. It is important to have a “primary care” veterinarian to keep your new family member healthy and happy with routine vaccinations and health checks. But if you find yourself in the midst of a veterinary emergency, our team of experienced veterinarians is here to help. When it comes to visiting animal hospitals, we understand that the experience can be full of stress and worry, so we aim to make things as simple as possible. For more information, get in touch with one of our experts today.