Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs

marijuana toxicity in dogs

Cannabis plants have been used for years either for their recreational effects or for their pain-easing benefits. While medicinal use has been approved in many countries for a while, recreational use of cannabis has been legalized somewhat recently.

In Canada, this happened in 2018. Some states in the US have approved it, as well.

With a rise in consumption came a rise in pet exposure to marijuana. But is marijuana toxic to our furry friends? How can they become intoxicated? We’re answering these questions and more in today’s post, so keep on reading!

How Can Dogs End up Suffering from Marijuana Toxicity?

You might think that if the products containing cannabis that you have purchased are completely legal and safe to use by people, they’re the same for our canine friends.

Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all, dogs are most likely to become intoxicated with cannabis by consuming edible products, which can range from chocolate bars, brownies, and candies, to baked goods.

Smoking pot in the same room as your dog might not seem like it can have much effect on him or her, but the truth is that dogs have many more cannabis receptors in their brains than people.

This means that they can experience all of the effects humans do and then some. Plus, the effects can be quite dramatic in some cases, and the worst thing is that it really doesn’t take a lot of cannabis to cause toxicity in both our canine and feline friends.

Signs of marijuana toxicity in dogs

The symptoms of marijuana poisoning in our canine friends can differ depending on the way they came in contact with it. For example, if your dog ate a brownie or chocolate that contained marijuana, the poisoning that he or she will develop is not only the result of cannabis exposure, but other substances, too, such as chocolate or artificial sweeteners, both of which can be deadly to dogs.

Some of the most common symptoms that can be seen in a dog suffering from marijuana intoxication are the following:

  • Unsteadiness
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Tremors, uneasiness, shaking

It is also worth noting that a dog can begin to show symptoms differently depending on how he/she consumed marijuana. For example, if your pooch eats it, it might take 30 minutes or sometimes even more to have any effect on your pet.

But if marijuana is inhaled, it works much faster, so you will notice worrying signs in a much shorter amount of time. The most common symptom that dogs experience is that they start behaving as if they were drunk.

Besides the fact that they have more receptors for cannabis in their brains compared to us humans, dogs can experience more severe effects also due to their size. A toy poodle is extremely likely to develop very bad signs of marijuana toxicity, especially compared to a Saint Bernard or to a human, in general.


Although ways of diagnosing marijuana poisoning in dogs do exist, they are usually too complicated, and they cannot be applied in a case where the dog has to be treated as soon as possible.

There are two types of tests that the vet can recommend – one for determining the THC amount in your pet’s urine and another, a human one, actually, for screening drugs out of urine.

Although the second is much faster than the first, its reliability and efficiency in pets are still up to debate.

In any case, the anamnesis (meaning the information that the veterinarian receives from you, the pet owner) is usually enough so as to establish a treatment protocol.


If you’re lucky and smart enough to take your dog to the vet right after you’ve noticed that he or she ingested an edible, for example, the veterinarian will apply physical procedures that can get rid of the toxin from your dog’s stomach — such as gastric lavage.

Activated charcoal can also be given to dogs in this situation as it is capable of neutralizing the toxin — it’s particularly necessary in cases where more than an hour or an hour and a half have passed since your dog ate the edible.

But what happens if your dog inhaled marijuana? Well, in that case, the only option that the vet will have will be to support your pooch’s body as best as possible until the effects of the drug wear off. This might mean that your canine friend could be hospitalized so as to have him/her under observation for a period of at least 8-10 hours.

The medications that the vet will use will be aimed at keeping your dog’s heart rate as close to normal, making sure the irritation inside the respiratory tract is diminished, and keeping your pet’s body temperature up to par.

Some dogs might have to be administered anti-anxiety meds. Almost all dogs, regardless of whether they have ingested or inhaled cannabis, will have to be hydrated through IVs or subcutaneous perfusions.

Since dogs that were exposed to marijuana are very sensitive to a variety of sensors, they should be kept in a very calm, quiet, and dark environment.


While most dogs recover from marijuana poisoning quite well and in a short amount of time, some aren’t as lucky. If you consume edibles, you should do your best to keep them out of your pet’s reach at all times.

If you smoke marijuana from time to time, make sure you do it away from home or in a place your canine buddy has no access to.

Time is of the essence if you know that your dog became exposed to marijuana, so taking your pooch to the vet hospital as soon as possible is extremely important — especially if he or she has had a brownie, chocolate, or candy containing artificial sweeteners.



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