Dogs are notorious counter surfers and opportunistic eaters, meaning they can easily be exposed to items intended to stay out of reach.
In early 2023, for the first time ever, recreational drugs made the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s list of top 10 toxins for pets. To put this milestone into perspective, the organization reported a 300% increase in calls about marijuana toxicity over the last five years.
Whether it’s due to increased medicinal use or wider legalization, it’s clear that marijuana ingestion has become much more prevalent in dogs. Let’s take a look at how to keep your pet safe, the effect of THC on dogs and what to do if your dog eats weed.
Signs of Marijuana Ingestion in Dogs
Marijuana should be stored away from pets, children and anyone who should not be handling the substance; preferably in a secure container that cannot accidentally be opened. Despite the best of intentions, unintended ingestions do still occur.
Oftentimes, when it comes to pets, these incidents happen when they’re alone. That means it’s important to know some of the signs of canine exposure to marijuana so you can act quickly. So, how does weed affect dogs? Within an hour, it’s common for these symptoms to occur:
- Lack of coordination, stumbling or the appearance of drunkenness in movement
- Lethargy, the appearance of tiredness or unexplained fatigue
- Dilated pupils, or pupils that appear enlarged
- Loss of urinary control, whether a dribbling of urine or unusual accidents
- Nausea or vomiting, whether caused by chemical reaction or changes in equilibrium
- Tremors or seizures, unexplained convulsions or shaking due to an unknown fear
What Type & Amount of Marijuana Is Deemed Toxic to Dogs?
To answer this question we need to identify the component in marijuana with the most psychoactive effect, which is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Highly concentrated medical products and THC-infused baked goods — both of which appeal to dogs’ innate curiosity — are intoxicants to canines. In fact, dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains than humans, creating higher sensitivity to THC. There is wide variance in how cannabis affects individual dogs, but the consensus is that there is no official safe level of exposure.
Can Weed Actually Make Dogs High?
The “high” associated with THC consumption can be thought of as toxic effects on a canine. This varies by animal and is dependent on their chemical makeup, and could include hyperactivity, sleepiness, disorientation, slower or faster heart rate and more. The length of time that symptoms last depends on the amount of marijuana consumed and its THC levels.
Immediate Steps to Take If Your Dog Consumed Weed
If you know or suspect that your pet consumed anything that they shouldn’t, including marijuana, it is always best to contact a veterinarian right away.
Provide as much detailed information as you can about how your dog is acting, how long ago you first noticed symptoms and what they might have consumed. Quick action and thorough information will allow a vet to advise the most accurate treatment plan.
Hydration is always important, but particularly after THC exposure. This promotes kidney function, a major contributor to how the body filters toxins. So be sure that your pet has access to cool, clean water while you discuss next steps with a professional.
Recovery for Marijuana Ingestion in Dogs
How long it takes for the symptoms of marijuana to wear off depends on a few variables. First and foremost is the size of the dog. Larger dogs, simply because they have more body weight, have less sensitivity to the effects of THC.
The concentration of THC will also play a role in the detoxification duration. If quick and proper treatment is given, full recovery can occur within a couple of hours, but more serious instances can take three or more days.
When considering how to keep a dog from accidental marijuana ingestion, work from the assumption that if anything is visible and within reach, a dog will find a way to consume it.
In addition to the curiosity factor, which makes prevention difficult, dogs' ability to use their mouths to puncture packaging increases risk. When it comes to baked goods laced with THC, store them in a secure container, up high, in a place where dogs cannot physically get access.
Do CBD oil, butters or synthetic marijuana cause the same issues as THC when consumed by dogs?
Any time a dog ingests something out of the ordinary, their highly conditioned gastrointestinal systems will most likely have a reaction to the sudden change. With marijuana, severity depends on the concentration of THC in the ingested substance.
CBD oils that do not contain THC do not present a risk, other than a possible disruption to digestion. In fact, CBD oil for dogs mimics the body’s natural endocannabinoids, which regulate the nervous system, helping it return to homeostasis.
Are certain breeds more susceptible to the effects of THC?
All breeds of dogs seem to be similarly affected by marijuana. However, like humans, each individual dog reacts differently. Smaller breeds are more sensitive to THC, while larger breeds might not display severe symptoms (unless they consume a more substantial amount).
Can secondhand smoke affect dogs?
As with any drug or substance, direct ingestion of marijuana is always the most dangerous for dogs. Still, remember that secondhand smoke is far from harmless. Any type of smoke inhalation harms respiratory function, with secondhand smoke from marijuana also bringing the effects of THC.
At RAWZ, we care about your pet’s well-being. That’s why generations of our family have been dedicated to crafting wholesome, natural pet food. Ready to learn more? Check out all of our products near you by finding one of our trusted, independent retailers.