Veterinary professionals and animal emergency hotlines report a dramatic increase in dog marijuana poisonings in states with relaxed marijuana laws.


A study conducted at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and a private referral hospital in Colorado directly linked a four-fold increase in dog marijuana poisonings to legalization of marijuana in that area.


In the study that covered a span of five years, 179 cases of known or suspected marijuana toxicity were found, a four-fold increase over previous years. Cases that were included in the study were confirmed to be positive for exposure to marijuana either be a urine test or by confirmation from the pet owner that the animal had ingested marijuana. In the same time period of the study, the Pet Poison Hotline, a national 24-7 animal poison control center, reported a 200% increase in the number of pet marijuana toxicity cases.


According to the Colorado study, marijuana poisoning in dogs can be caused by secondary inhalation of marijuana smoke, ingestion of the plant itself, baked goods that include parts of the plant, or foods made from the active ingredient in marijuana, THC or hashish oil.  Medical cases were complicated by the added exposure to chocolate, a common ingredient found in many of the marijuana-laced baked goods that the dogs had ingested.


What Happens If My Dog Gets High?

Dogs that presented for marijuana toxicosis were anything but happy about their ‘high’. More than 88% were ataxic (stumbling and disoriented) and 53% appeared deadened and minimally responsive to pain stimulus. Additional symptoms included urinary incontinence, excessive physical sensitivity, tremors, shaking, vomiting and coma.

Anything but funny

Treatment for marijuana poisoning can be complicated by the symptoms of the exposure. Attempts to induce vomiting in patients that have eaten marijuana or THC extract can be contraindicated in patients that are excessively lethargic, a common sign in marijuana poisonings.  In severe cases where patients are excessively lethargic or even comatose, extreme measures like gastric lavage may be indicated.


More Children Accidently Eating Pot

Dogs are not the only unintended victims of more wide-spread access to marijuana. Cats and even pet iguanas have all been treated for marijuana toxicosis. More alarming is the rise of human children who accidently ingest candy and baked goods laced with marijuana. In July 2016, the New York Times cited a JAMA Pediatrics article that chronicalled a 150% rise in rates of marijuana exposure in young children living in Colorado.


As states across the US (including Connecticut) contemplate a more relaxed position on marjijuana, veterinarians are gearing up for the fall out.  In 2013, The Animal Medical Center of New York City reported, ‘Veterinarians in New York State will need to be prepared to treat more dogs with marijuana intoxication if the experience in Colorado holds true here.’

Medical Use of Marijuana in Pets

Despite the stark headlines, not all veterinarians at Brookfield are panicked.  Dr. Silke Bogart, co-owner of Brookfield with her husband Dr. Mike Dattner, would like to readers to know that cases of marijuana toxicity in pets over the years at Brookfield have been rare and benign.  She also shared that some veterinarians are experimenting with the use of medical marijuana in pets when treating pain and some behavioral issues.

Read this NY Times article increased number of ‘high’ pets


It May Be Recreational For You, But It’s Not For Your Pet

If you know or suspect that your pet has ingested marijuana, seek immediate veterinary help and be frank about what you believe is wrong with your pet. There are no laws in Connecticut that force veterinarians to report such cases. Pets exposed for marijuana toxicity will be treated like any other ill patient.  At Brookfield Animal, our first priority is the health and wellbeing of your pet.


What are your thoughts on legalized marijuana and pets?  Would you consider using marijuana to treat your pet?  Share your comments below.

Bash Halow is a certified veterinary practice manager, licensed veterinary technician and partner with Halow Tassava Consulting.  He writes for DVM360, Veterinary Economics and other veterinary trade publications around the country and in Canada.