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My dog ate weed – What should I do?

A grey dog lying next to marijuana leaves
(Image credit: Getty)

If you’re asking “My Dog Ate Weed - what should I do?” be assured that, while it’s an emergency situation, there are some things you can do to help. You should also know that having the best pet insurance will really help too.

Marijuana intoxication in dogs has become increasingly common as marijuana has become legal in more and more states.  Unfortunately, dogs seem to like the taste of marijuana and it’s not uncommon for a dog to raid their owner’s stash!  This is especially problematic because marijuana is toxic to dogs and severe intoxication can lead to a number of troubling symptoms including seizures, coma, and potentially even death.  If you know or even suspect that your dog has eaten marijuana, don’t wait.  Get help from your veterinarian right away.  With quick intervention and appropriate care, many dogs recover well from marijuana intoxication and do not have any long term adverse effects

Symptoms of marijuana intoxication

A dog ingesting marijuana is no laughing matter.  Ingesting large amounts or particularly potent strains of marijuana can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.  Other symptoms of marijuana intoxication can include:

  • Lethargy or somnolence
  • Hypothermia
  • Slow heart rate
  • Dribbling urine
  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Hypersalivation
  • Vocalization
  • Startles easily but quickly returns to a somnolent state

If you are unsure if your dog has ingested marijuana, your veterinarian can perform a drug test using a simple over the counter urine test kit from the human pharmacy.  If your dog tests positive for marijuana, this can help guide the treatment plan for your dog.

Take your dog to a veterinarian

The first step after your dog has ingested marijuana is to take your dog to a veterinarian for evaluation.  Tell your veterinarian right away that your dog has ingested marijuana.  Your veterinarian will not report you or judge you, and the process will go much smoother if your vet does not have to guess at the problem.  Your vet is only interested in helping your dog recover as quickly as possible!

If your dog ingested marijuana recently, your veterinarian may be able to induce vomiting to remove the marijuana from your dog’s stomach before it causes any ill effects.  But if your dog is already displaying symptoms of marijuana intoxication, it is too late to make him vomit.  Your vet may use activated charcoal, which binds to the marijuana in your dog’s GI tract and prevents it from being absorbed.  Your vet may also suggest hospitalizing him for the day for monitoring and so that medications can be administered if needed.  Medications commonly used in cases of marijuana intoxication include anti-emetics to stop vomiting, anticonvulsants to manage seizures, and benzodiazepines to manage agitation.  In severe cases, intravenous lipid therapy may be used to bind toxins in the blood and help speed recovery.  

Recovering at home

If your dog’s intoxication is mild, your veterinarian will likely allow your dog to recover at home.  You should keep your dog contained in a small room where he will not hurt himself.  The room should be quiet and dark so he can “sleep it off”, which will also minimize any agitation or hyperactivity that can occur as a result of marijuana intoxication.  Make sure your dog has access to fresh water, and feed and walk your dog on his regular schedule unless your veterinarian has directed you to do otherwise.  Most importantly, monitor your dog’s symptoms closely.  If they have not resolved in 24 hours, contact your veterinarian for further advice.  The good news is that most cases of marijuana intoxication have a very good prognosis, and they recover well with no long term effects.  

Preventing marijuana intoxication

If you have marijuana in your home, the best thing to do is be certain that your dog never has access to it.  Store marijuana in a sealed container and keep the container and any related paraphernalia out of your dog’s reach.  Edibles can be extra tempting for your dog and edibles containing chocolate are extra dangerous because both marijuana and chocolate are toxic to dogs.  Be sure to put edibles in a place well out of your dog’s reach and be sure that wrappers are thrown away in a sealed trash can so your dog does not ingest them.  If at any point you suspect your dog has ingested marijuana, contact your veterinarian for advice right away.  Even if it was only a small amount, it is much better to be safe then sorry!

Dogs and marijuana: A toxic combination

Although humans frequently ingest marijuana with no ill effects, dogs are much more sensitive to this substance and can become intoxicated even if only a small amount is ingested.  Keep all marijuana products safely stored in a sealed container and out of the reach of your dog to prevent accidental ingestion.  If your dog does ingest marijuana, contact your veterinarian right away and be up front about what happened.  Your vet is there to help you and your dog!  

Severe cases of marijuana intoxication can be fatal, so it is extremely important to seek veterinary care right away.  Your dog may need to be hospitalized for monitoring and treatment.  Luckily, most mild to moderate cases of marijuana intoxication will recover with supportive care and will not suffer from any long term effects. Symptoms of mild to moderate marijuana intoxication include somnolence, dribbling urine, and slow heart rate.  You may need to monitor these symptoms at home while your dog recovers in a dark, quiet room.  The good news is that most dogs recover within 24 hours, so your dog should be back to his old self soon enough.

Dr. Elizabeth Racine is a small animal general practice veterinarian covering all things pet health and wellness.  Her special interests include veterinary behavior, nutrition, and internal medicine.  As a freelance writer, Dr. Racine has written content for major companies in the industry such as the American Kennel Club, Merck Animal Health, Bayer PetBasics, Elanco, and CareCredit.  In her free time, Dr. Racine enjoys playing trampoline dodgeball, hiking with her beagle Dasher, and spending time with her three mischievous cats.  Dr. Racine can be found at www.theveterinarywriter.com and at https://www.linkedin.com/in/eracinedvm/