10 January 2013
What To Do If Your Dog Eats Cannabis.
I went up to university ( Glasgow ) to study veterinary medicine in the early 70’s at that time the Sunday newspapers were full of lurid tales of students and drugs, if that was the case then I certainly missed it, I never saw a trace of marijuana or any other sort of drug for that matter during my time, us vet students must have been a very sheltered middle class lot in those day!
However that was soon to change, shortly after I qualified I had my first experience with recreational drugs when I induced vomiting in a dog during an emergency out of hours consult and up popped a cube of cannabis resin. The owner has beside herself as she feared this would have been fatal for her dog, I reassured her that now the dog had thrown up the cannabis that all would be well, I flushed the offending item down the toilet, and all was indeed well.
Up to that point in my career I knew little about marijuana poisoning but I looked it up the next day and made a few notes with I have referred to ever since. Here are a few pointers ...
1. The situation is this, marijuana is actually not that poisonous to dogs, in fact it takes about 1.5 grams of marijuana per pound of body weight to cause death. So deaths from marijuana poisoning are not common in the dog, while I have seen a number of cases where dogs have swallowed marijuana over the years I personally have never seen a death.
2. But adverse symptoms such as animals becoming sleepy, vomiting, and being uncoordinated are common, with larger doses hallucinations are possible and even seizures can happen in extreme cases.
3. While there are no guarantees, in my experience the vast majority of dogs exposed to marijuana fully recover within 24 hours without any treatment. There is no specific antidote this sort of situation just symptomatic treatment depending on how things go. However some dogs would experience very bad symptoms and would then require veterinary care such as hospitalisation and intensive care with IV fluids etc.
4. So from a vet’s point of view how do you treat such cases? Well if you can get them within the first hour after ingestion then inducing vomiting is the way to go. If you can recover the drug that way then all should be well. You can still induce vomiting up to two hours after ingestion but this is very much less likely to be effective and beyond two hours it is a waste of time. Other than that all you can do is to monitor the case and treat it symptomatically until the animal recovers.
I know there are a couple of upcoming vet students who follow my blog so they should keep the above info in the back of their minds for when they qualify. I always find it a cause for wonder how frequently dogs get hold of marijuana and then their owners rush them to the vet. I guess they must like the taste, joints, cannabis cookies, marijuana brownies, resin, I have seen the lot!
The Author is Dr Scott Nimmo MRCVS