Marijuana is toxic to dogs, cats and horses, leading to a condition referred to as marijuana toxicosis.
Symptoms include staggering, weakness, dilated pupils, slow heart rate, vomiting, trouble urinating, depression, seizures, hyperthermia, coma and, in rare cases, death.
Symptoms appear within 30 to 60 minutes after consumption and can last as many as three days.
Source: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
PHOENIX — Dogs get into things, whether it be chewing up a shoe, digging through the trash or grabbing food off the table. Now some owners need to add marijuana edibles to the list of items to keep away from man’s best friend.
With medical marijuana legal in 21 states and the District of Columbia, and recreational pot in Colorado and Washington, pet emergency rooms are seeing more dogs that have eaten marijuana in brownies, cookies, oils and other forms.
“(The) dogs are lethargic, with their eyes rolling in the back of their heads, or they’re unconscious,” said Billy Griswold of Emergency Animal Clinic in the Phoenix area.
Griswold said that in the past few years he has treated at least 24 dogs each month that have eaten marijuana. That coincides with Arizonans voting in 2010 to legalize medical marijuana. Arizona has more than 50,000 licensed patients.
Unlike their owners, dogs don’t know that marijuana edible consumption is dependant on the user’s weight. That leads to unpredictable reactions ranging from depression, staggering and dilated pupils to vomiting, seizures, coma and, in rare cases, death.
“Marijuana is considered to be toxic, a poison to these dogs,” Griswold said. “Owners have to be more careful and use common sense. Don’t let your dogs eat those brownies.”
Tim Hackett, director of Colorado State University’s James Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, said such cases are more common in places where marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use. But it also occurs in states where marijuana use is illegal, he said.
“There’s a significant correlation between the number of people using marijuana freely now and dogs being treated for a high,” he said.
Hackett said that when dogs have access to a plate of marijuana edibles, they eat all they can.
“Dogs gorge themselves,” he said. “Consequentially, they have more traumatic symptoms.”
Veterinarians usually treat dogs by feeding them activated charcoals that absorb toxins, making the dogs vomit, and administering IV fluids.
Barry Kellogg, senior veterinary adviser for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, said research is lacking on marijuana’s affects on animals. He said his group is among those pressing the federal government to remove what he calls regulatory hurdles hampering clinical research on such effects.
“After that, will we have a knowledge base, so that all animals can be safe and even might benefit from its use,” Kellogg said.
Until then, veterinarians must deal with uncertainties, including those that arise when owners are reluctant to say what’s really ailing Fido. Brian Serbin of Ingleside Animal Hospital in Phoenix said owners should never withhold from veterinarians that dogs have eaten marijuana. “The veterinary community is not here to tattle on you. Be honest with your doctor, so we can fix your dog.”