With the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, last week the Justice Department effectively announced it won’t challenge other states’ attempts to legalize the drug for medical or recreational use. While marijuana is still classified as illegal, there are many individuals who believe these policy changes lay the groundwork for many states to legalize marijuana, especially for medicinal use in humans. In the meantime, debates about whether or not medical marijuana is beneficial for ailing pets are becoming more frequent. The jury remains out regarding the benefits of medical marijuana for pets, but recent news coverage and an increase in the number of pets being treated for accidental marijuana poisonings are raising questions about the safety of marijuana, especially in dogs.
Can Pets Die from Marijuana Poisoning?
Pets that have access to marijuana plants, dried portions of the plants, or foodstuffs containing marijuana can develop marijuana intoxication.
While serious long-term health consequences and fatality from marijuana intoxication are extremely rare, newer higher concentrated strains of marijuana and synthetic drugs (such as “spice”) that mimic marijuana pose a more significant threat. Pets that are exposed to marijuana may display anxiety and disorientation, and are prone to “bad trips”. Intoxicated pets may lack the coordination necessary to consume food and water.
Anxiety, panting and agitation are common in pets following exposure to marijuana. In some pets, profound lethargy that can border on unconsciousness can result. Often times, pets show impaired balance and may stagger, stumble and fall attempting to walk. Drooling, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur. Pets may even lose bowel and bladder control, resulting in house soiling. Extreme responses to noises, movements and other forms of sensory stimulation may occur in pets that are exposed to marijuana as well. These responses can manifest as trembling or jerking of the head or extremities, and may appear similar to seizures in severe cases.
Risk Factors and Prevention
The main risk factors for pets is the presence of whole marijuana plants, dried plant parts or foods containing marijuana in the pet’s environment. It is not unheard of to deliberately expose pets to marijuana. Individuals may intentionally feed marijuana to pets, or deliberately expose pets to marijuana smoke.
Although long-term complications from exposure to marijuana are very rare, pets suffering from marijuana intoxication may injure themselves due to lack of coordination. Dehydration can also result when pets are unable to consume water.
Fatality from the exposure of marijuana was almost unheard of until the development of medical grade marijuana products. In December 2012, a journal article reported on the deaths of two dogs that had consumed concentrated marijuana products. However, long-term complications from marijuana ingestion is extremely rare.
In the majority of cases, diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms in combination with known or potential exposure to marijuana.
In some cases, extensive diagnostic testing is performed to make sure that other, more serious forms of intoxication are not occurring.
The goal of marijuana intoxication treatment is to nurse the pet and prevent anxiety until the period of intoxication is complete. Noise and other sensory stimuli should be minimized as well. Some pets may require sedatives or injections of fluids. If a large quantity of marijuana is in a pet’s stomach, vomiting may be induced by a professional.
For more information or if you believe your pet has ingested marijuana, don’t hesitate to contact one of our veterinarians here at All Pets Medical Center with the link below!