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Pet Talk: Marijuana toxicity in Dogs

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Marijuana (cannabis) contains more than 100 different chemicals (or compounds) called cannabinoids.

Dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains, which means the effects of cannabis are more dramatic and potentially more toxic when compared to humans.

A small amount of cannabis is all it takes to cause toxicity in dogs. Marijuana interferes with the brain's ability to interpret its surroundings. Affected animals usually get exposed by eating food contaminated with cannabis, second hand smoke, or eating human feces contaminated with cannabis. Affected animals may be restless, nervous, hypersensitive to their surroundings, and disoriented. Vomiting, diarrhea, urine leakage, tremors, wobbly stance, weakness, and dilated pupils may occur. Signs usually last 18-72 hours.

Diagnosis is based on history of exposure and compatible clinical signs. You can also test the urine of dogs using store bought drug tests, as marijuana compounds may be detected in the urine. To treat marijuana toxicity, it may be recommended to make your dog vomit. Inducing vomiting can only be helpful if the dog has been exposed somewhat recently. If they are already showing clinical signs, vomiting may be unsuccessful. Hospitalization may be recommended for supportive care to prevent self trauma. Supportive care also includes IV fluids to help flush the toxins and giving activated charcoal to bind the toxin.

Prognosis is excellent in most cases, with most effects going away after 18-72 hours. Please do not hesitate to tell your veterinarian if your animal got into marijuana. It can be critically important in their treatment and can help save their life!

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