Written by David Reich — Fact checked by Piet Hellemans, DVM
In a Nutshell:
- Dogs can get high from accidental ingestion, experimental administration, a contact high from exposure to marijuana or eating cannabis edibles.
- Seek immediate medical support if your dog ingests marijuana, as most pets recover well.
- Feeding pets with edibles made for human consumption may contain high THC and could cause lethal damage to their health.
- Owners who smoke cannabis, never blow smoke for fun or on purpose on your dog’s face or ears. It could cause a contact high in pets accompanied by unpleasant side effects.
The legal access to marijuana or cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CBPMs) is gradually gaining a foothold in Britain. While the debate around its safety and efficacy coexist with increasing patient needs, who seek medical benefits from their use. (although access to them remains controlled)
As the human demand for medical or recreational cannabis continues to escalate worldwide, equally important is the safety concern of the pets that we own.
Gaining information and awareness on marijuana toxicity in dogs and other pets could mean a lot considering the safety of 10.1 million pet dogs in the UK.
In essence, dogs can get high from accidental ingestion, experimental administration, deliberate feeding (for fun), a contact high due to marijuana exposure or by eating cannabis edibles. Although rarely fatal, it could harm your pets’ health.
Cannabis or marijuana intoxication in dogs
The history and use of the cannabis Sativa plant (popularly called marijuana) date back to thousands of years. It occupied value in several lifestyle applications such as food, medicine, and recreational purposes.
Several studies address the various aspects of its hundreds of primary compounds focussing on the non-psychoactive CBD (Cannabidiol) and the psychoactive counterpart THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). These compounds have been extensively studied for their potential application as therapeutic drugs for several health conditions in humans. And is now gaining momentum in animal studies as well.
Although the volume of research on the potential applicability of CBD for pets is so far lesser, its safety profile is good with rare adverse effects. Therefore, the concern here is about the psychoactive compound THC, which could be fatal in pets.
A study confirms that although THC has a high safety margin, oral doses exceeding 3 gms/kg to dogs could be poisonous. But could a dog die due to marijuana ingestion?
In some cases, dog deaths have occurred after they ingested food products containing concentrated medical-grade THC butter, says the study. It adds that dogs begin to show clinical effects within 60minutes after ingestion. What are the signs to look for marijuana poisoning in dogs?
Marijuana intoxication in dogs: what signs to look for?
You must have come across videos of dogs struggling to stand, appear dazed, or show wobbly expressions due to THC intoxication. Don’t you think filming our pet companions in such a state is distressing?! Unfortunately, many owners seldom realize the harmful effects or toxicity of THC that could adversely affect their dogs.
From a clinical standpoint, signs of THC intoxication include:
- Low blood pressure
- Urinary incontinence
- Dilated pupils
- Decreased body temperature (hypothermia),
- Changes in blood pressure, and more depending on the size of your dog and other health conditions.
Dogs can quickly eat up a big chunk of cannabis brownie or an entire pack of edibles if not stored safely. In such cases, dogs could show signs of intoxication within 30 to 60 minutes and need immediate medical support.
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On the contrary, if they have ingested marijuana in small doses, it might be tough to notice definite signs. Because there could be a possibility that THC has already metabolised. In such cases, keep an eye on their behavior, appetite, food habits, coupled with a visit to your vet to prevent seizure events.
Can dogs get high from CBD?
Since cannabidiol has a non-psychoactive nature, it does not intoxicate or create a high in dogs. CBD oil for dogs should be formulated with pet-friendly ingredients and not contain any THC or any added terpenes. NatuPet’s CBD products do not contain any detectable THC levels and are therefore safe for dogs.
Related article: Can cats get high from CBD?
Marijuana and Magic Mushroom intoxication in dogs: How to differentiate?
Besides intoxication from marijuana, the next concern that calls for pet owners’ attention is exposure to magic mushrooms. Psilocybe, Conocybe, Gymnopilus, and Panaeolus are mushroom species that induce hallucinogenic effects and other signs similar to marijuana poisoning.
These mushrooms grow naturally in warm, moist climates, often spotted along with grass in lawns, parks, and in your backyard too. Dogs eat them (playfully), and experience similar signs of intoxication from marijuana, such as disorientation, anxiety, ataxia ( loss of body movements), dilated pupils, and hyperthermia. Reported evidence says that dogs begin to show hallucinogenic signs within 10 to 30 minutes after ingestion and the effects could last up to 12 hours.
Therefore, the signs of intoxication in dogs from marijuana and mushroom ingestion are more or less similar. But the recovery is mostly quicker in the latter. Also, mushroom ingestion does not lead to life-threatening events. And treatment options include controlling heart rate and administering antihistamine medications.
Can dogs get high from secondhand smoke?
Sadly, yes. Dogs get affected by inhaling secondhand smoke. All pets get affected by getting exposed to secondhand and thirdhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker.
Thirdhand smoke is the debris/ residue from smoke that falls to the ground (indoor floors) and mixes with the air. The same residue attaches itself to indoor furniture, carpets, pets’ fur, and other things in the same environment.
Dogs exposed to inhaling marijuana smoke or sniffing or licking leftover buds, particles, or debris on their fur, get affected with respiratory illnesses, lung congestions, nasal tumors, tumors in the nasal cavity, ocular discharge, sneezing, infections from a foreign body, etc. Moreover, these effects could vary in severity depending on the breed and size of your dog.
Information and awareness about passive exposure to smoke from marijuana and its adverse effects on pets are limited compared to the emphasis given to human exposure. Therefore, pet owners smoking marijuana for medical or recreational purposes make sure pets are not around in the same room.
How does medical marijuana affect dogs?
While the applicability of medical marijuana in humans for various health conditions is extensively studied, more animal owners show an increased interest in using these products for their pets.
But, veterinary medicine does not approve marijuana use in pets. Very few controlled group studies have explored the effects of medical marijuana in dogs suffering from epilepsy, cancer, and osteoarthritis. These experiments are small in number and the results are not conclusive.
Therefore never give dog marijuana edible, getting influenced from just anecdotal evidence. If pets are accidentally or intentionally exposed, make sure to take them to an emergency vet at the earliest.
Treatment: What should you do if your dog ate marijuana edibles?
Most pets recover from marijuana poisoning. Take your pet to the emergency clinic if you find out that your dog accidentally ate your supply of edibles. Or even if you suspect that your pet could have ingested something from the park, got exposed to second-hand smoke; a visit to the veterinarian is a stitch in time.
If you observe that your dog seems stoned, look for the following signs and seek immediate medical attention.
- Difficulty in lifting face,
- unable to stand or sit steady,
- seem drunk,
- abnormal vocalization in smaller dogs,
- disorientation, etc.
- Treatment would vary depending upon the onset time. Accordingly, the vet would decide if they can induce vomiting to get the toxicity out of their system. They are additionally supported with intravenous fluids to help them stay hydrated and prevent electrolyte and acid imbalances.
- Frequent monitoring of heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure is vital.
- Oral administration of activated charcoal helps treat intoxication as it absorbs the toxicant and facilitates excretion.
- In severe cases where dogs ended up eating higher quantities of edibles made with cannabutter containing potent THC such as cookies, slices of bread, cakes, or chocolates, doctors may administer medications to reduce the effects of marijuana and keep them in supportive care until the full effects wear off.
Top 7 tips: Keep your dog safe from THC intoxication
- Dog owners and dog walkers should take special care to be observant while taking pets for walks in public parks. Curious pets might pick up discarded edibles or a fallen joint in a public space. Ingesting small amounts could also lead to toxicity.
- Some owners dose their pets with edibles thinking that it could help them in pain relief and other maladies. But, the THC in edibles meant for adult human consumption is highly concentrated and can cause lethal damage to their health.
- Be vigilant about passive exposure! Never blow smoke for fun or on purpose on your dog’s face or ears. Marijuana smoke can cause a contact high in pets accompanied by unpleasant side effects. Avoid smoking in an enclosed space in the presence of your pet.
- Never keep any of your smoking accessories or other edibles near your dog treats.
- Pet owners who smoke or use edibles must store all cannabis products and accessories (raw flowers, vaping pipes, dab rigs) locked in cupboards, inaccessible by dogs. Not to forget garbage bags. Especially if you have two dogs, you don’t want to take a chance! If you have cooked or prepared edibles yourself, never leave the kitchen until all the used dishes are cleaned and kept out of reach from your champion smellers.
- Pet owners should observe their pets carefully as they tend to exhibit common signs or similar side effects after ingesting marijuana and magic mushrooms.
- Seek immediate medical support if your dog ingests marijuana, as most pets recover well.