JUN 20, 2019 06:09 AM PDT

Is Marijuana Harmful to Pets?


Dorrie Black works at Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services, a 24-hour veterinary clinic near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. She says she often treats up to three dogs per week who have ingested marijuana. "Dogs will get into anything and everything," she says. 

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia now have legalized the drug in some form, meaning that marijuana can be commonly found in many U.S. households, whether it be for medical or recreational use.  

Black says dogs will ingest marijuana by eating the remainder of a joint or getting into edible marijuana in both the house or the park. In cities with higher homeless populations, it is not farfetched that an animal could ingest human feces tainted with cannabis and that this could get them high. 

Black and other veterinarians believe this problem is becoming more common in areas like the Bay Area, where homeless populations continue to grow. 

Benjamin A. Otten, a veterinarian who works at the allCREATURES veterinary clinic in El Cerrito, California, suggests owners use the following identifiers when identifying marijuana toxicity in a dog or pet:

  • Wobbly movements
  • Dribbling urine
  • A dazed look in the animal's eyes
  • Low body temperature
  • Nervousness

A dog attempting to sit up straight after ingesting cannabis. Photo Source: Laura Klivans/KQED via NPR

Pets will exhibit these symptoms due to the fact that the psychoactive property of marijuana, THC, is poisonous to them. However, none of these veterinarians have seen or heard of an animal dying from the toxicity. 

"There's nothing about that actual drug itself that will kill them," Black assures. "It doesn't cause any organ failure. It doesn't cause liver failure or renal failure," she claims. The drug sedates that animal so intensely that it has the potential to inhale its vomit, which could be fatal. 

Ironically, CBD oils are marketed to pet owners as an aid to specific pet ailments like anxiety and seizures.  Much like in the study of humans and CBD, there is limited research existing to prove this to be either true or false. 

One Colorado study found that two dogs died after ingesting chocolate edibles baked with marijuana-infused butter. However, it was undeterminable if the cause of death was the chocolate, the marijuana, other ingredients, or a combination. 

Black suggests that if an owner does not know if, or how much, their animal has ingested, that it is always a good idea to take them to the vet. The vet can do one of three things to attempt to remove the drug from its system: induce vomiting, pump the animal's stomach, or give it activated charcoal. 

She encourages pet owners, marijuana users or not, to be careful and aware as she says that we have heavier marijuana toxicities to worry about "because of medical-grade marijuana and because of edibles." 

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