Cannabis Toxicity in Dogs – What to Do if Your Dog Ate Marijuana

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is increasingly present in households due to changing laws and growing acceptance of its use. While cannabis may have therapeutic benefits for humans, it can be dangerous for our canine companions. Cannabis toxicity in dogs is a serious issue that pet owners must understand to ensure the safety and health of their pets.

What’s in This Guide?

A dog looking down representing lethargy, a symptom of cannabis toxicity in dogs

What Is Cannabis Toxicity in Dogs?

Cannabis toxicity in dogs occurs when a dog ingests marijuana or cannabis products. This includes:

  • Dried plant material;
  • Edibles (like cookies or brownies);
  • THC oils or tinctures; and 
  • Other forms of cannabis or marijuana. 

The active compound in cannabis responsible for its psychoactive effects is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While THC may have medicinal uses for humans, it can be toxic to dogs, even in small amounts.

How Does Cannabis Toxicity in Dogs Occur?

Dogs can be exposed to or eat cannabis, marijuana, or THC in several ways. These include the following:

1. Ingestion of Plant Material

Dogs may chew on cannabis plants or dried marijuana, attracted by the plant's texture and aroma. This can lead to the ingestion of plant material, including leaves and buds, which contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and other cannabinoids.

2. Ingestion of Edibles

Cannabis-infused foods, especially those with chocolate, raisins, or other toxic ingredients, pose a dual toxicity threat to dogs. These edibles often come in forms that are appealing to pets, such as brownies or cookies, and dogs can ingest them easily if left unsecured.

3. Accidental Consumption of Products

Oils, tinctures, and other cannabis products can be enticing to dogs due to their scents and flavors. Dogs may accidentally consume these products if left within reach or improperly stored. Because oils and tinctures are highly concentrated, even a small amount can overwhelm a dog’s system.

4. Inhalation (Second-Hand Smoke)

Dogs can inhale second-hand smoke from cannabis. This typically occurs in environments where marijuana is being smoked or vaporized indoors. Inhaling cannabis smoke can lead to THC absorption through the lungs, potentially causing toxicity symptoms in dogs.

Symptoms of Cannabis Toxicity in Dogs

Symptoms of marijuana toxicity in dogs can vary depending on the amount ingested and the size of the dog. Common signs include:

  • Lethargy — Dogs may appear unusually tired or sedated.
  • Disorientation — Affected dogs often seem confused and may have difficulty standing or walking.
  • Dilated Pupils — Dogs may have noticeably enlarged pupils.
  • Drooling —Excessive salivation is a common symptom.
  • Vomiting — Nausea and vomiting can occur after ingestion.
  • Incontinence — Some dogs lose control over their bladder and bowels.
  • Tremors and Seizures — In severe cases, dogs may experience muscle tremors or seizures.
  • Hyperactivity or Agitation — Some dogs may become overly excited or agitated.
  • Slow Heart RateBradycardia, or a slower-than-normal heart rate, is often observed.

What to Do if Your Dog Ate Marijuana

If you suspect that your dog ate marijuana, cannabis, or other products containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), don't hesitate to contact the appropriate helplines. 

You can reach out to the Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for immediate assistance over the phone in cases of marijuana or cannabis ingestion. These helplines will give guidance, as well as a case number which will help speed up the intake process if you need to bring your pet to an urgent vet care or emergency vet care provider near you.

Note: Sploot Vets provides urgent care and emergency vet care services in Denver and Chicago. Though we do NOT operate 24/7, we are open for extended hours, 365 days a year. Feel free to contact us if you need assistance!
A person on the phone with an emergency hotline to consult about a situation wherein a dog ate marijuana

Diagnosing Cannabis Toxicity in Dogs

Veterinarians diagnose cannabis toxicity in dogs primarily through clinical signs and by interviewing the pet parent about what happened. If a pet parent suspects their dog has ingested marijuana, providing the veterinarian with this information is crucial for a prompt and accurate diagnosis. 

Note: In some cases, urine tests can detect THC in dogs if the dog ate marijuana or cannabis products, but these are not always necessary for diagnosis.

Treatment for Cannabis or Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs

Treatment for cannabis toxicity in dogs focuses on supportive care. There is no specific antidote for THC if the dog ate marijuana or cannabis products, so veterinary care aims to manage symptoms and support the dog's body as it clears the toxin. 

Common treatments for cannabis toxicity in dogs include:

  1. Inducing Vomiting — If the ingestion was recent, a veterinarian might induce vomiting to remove the toxin from the stomach.
  2. Activated Charcoal — This can help bind the toxin and prevent further absorption.
  3. Intravenous Fluids or Subcutaneous FluidsIV fluids or intravenous fluids, which are administered directly into the vein, support hydration and help flush the toxin from the dog's system. Subcutaneous fluids, administered under the skin instead of into a vein, may be suitable in mild or moderate cases. 
  4. Monitoring and Support — Dogs may need to be monitored for several hours to a few days, depending on the severity of the toxicity. This includes checking heart rate, respiration, and temperature.
Note: Generally, it is NOT advisable to induce vomiting without the guidance of a veterinary professional.

Preventing Cannabis Toxicity in Dogs (and Other Pets)

Prevention is key to avoiding cannabis toxicity in dogs. Pet parents should take the following precautions:

1. Secure Storage

Ensure all cannabis products are stored securely out of reach of pets. Use child-proof containers and store them in high or locked cabinets to prevent accidental ingestion by curious animals.

2. Safe Disposal

Dispose of cannabis waste properly to prevent dogs from scavenging in the trash. This includes securely wrapping any cannabis remnants before disposal in a trash can with a secure lid.

3. Awareness in the Household

Educate all household members and visitors about the dangers of cannabis to pets. Ensure everyone understands the potential risks and knows what to do in case of accidental ingestion.

4. Avoid Second-Hand Smoke

Avoid smoking cannabis around pets to prevent them from inhaling second-hand smoke. Cannabis smoke can affect pets' respiratory systems and potentially lead to toxicity, especially in enclosed spaces.

CBD vs. THC: Is CBD Also Bad for Dogs?

It's important to distinguish between THC and cannabidiol (CBD), another compound found in cannabis. CBD is non-psychoactive and can be used in veterinary medicine for its potential therapeutic benefits. 

However, products containing CBD can sometimes also contain THC, especially if not properly regulated. Pet owners should always consult a veterinarian before giving any CBD products to pets..

Final Thought on What to Do if a Dog Ate Marijuana or Gets Cannabis Toxicity

By recognizing the symptoms of marijuana toxicity in dogs and taking appropriate preventive measures, pet owners can protect their pets from accidental exposure and ensure their well-being. Always consult with a veterinarian for guidance and immediate care if you suspect your dog has ingested cannabis.

Sploot Veterinary Care: Your Go-To Vet for Urgent & Emergency Vet Services

If you have questions about cannabis toxicity in dogs, what to do if your dog ate marijuana, or if you need our urgent assistance, please give us a call. Please bear in mind that helplines are also available (e.g. Pet Poison Helpline, ASPCA Animal Poison Control).

Note: After reaching out to a helpline or Sploot’s tele-triage, you will likely need to bring your dog to an urgent vet care or emergency vet services provider. 

Sploot Vets offers comprehensive veterinary care, encompassing preventative, urgent, and emergency vet care services. Our Denver and Chicago vet clinics operate on extended hours, 365 days a year to maximize our vet clinic’s availability. We give priority to urgent cases and offer drop-off vet care for pet emergencies. Get urgent care at Sploot by calling our team

As always, we’re with you every pounce of the way.