What to do if your dog accidentally ingests marijuana

Marijuana exposure is on the rise among pets, according to the ASPCA.

British Bulldog, UK. (Photo by: Nik Taylor/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A woman in Georgia went viral earlier this week after issuing a plea on social media for help finding her missing dog, who went missing from a veterinarian’s office after she ingested multiple delta-8 gummies, which are a legal form of cannabis.

The consumption of cannabis by dogs and other pets has become a growing problem. In 2023, marijuana and other recreational drugs counted as one of the 10 most common toxins pets were exposed to. Cases in 2022 skyrocketed 300% compared to five years prior, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

But how does this happen, and what can dog owners do if their pet has accidentally ingested marijuana?

How dogs can be exposed to marijuana

There are several ways dogs can accidentally ingest cannabis, or marijuana. This can be through food products, such as baked goods or edible gummies, or even through secondhand smoke. Because all of these contain THC, the chemical found in marijuana that causes a high, a dog’s health can be seriously affected.

CBD — a compound found in cannabis that doesn’t cause a high and can be used to treat inflammation and anxiety in people — is now being used in over-the-counter products for dogs to treat several issues, according to the American Kennel Club. While some studies have shown CBD’s efficacy in treating pain in dogs, there is still a risk when exposing them to the chemical.

“Be sure to consult with your veterinarian first about how CBD might affect your dog’s health, and ask them for a list of recommended brands or products,” according to the Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center in Ithaca, N.Y.

Here’s what owners should look for if they suspect their dog has accidentally ingested cannabis, and what to do if they have.

What symptoms will my dog exhibit if exposed to marijuana?

The ASPCA says that THC is toxic to cats and dogs, and they will feel unstable if they eat products that include the chemical. Although ingesting marijuana is rarely fatal, animals will have trouble walking and keeping their balance. They might also experience glassy eyes and dilated pupils, hyperactivity, vocalization, drooling, vomiting and urinary incontinence.

In such cases, a dog should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. This is because dogs, who have more cannabinoid receptors in their bodies than humans, are hypersensitive to THC.

What is the treatment for a dog that has ingested marijuana?

“In severely affected animals, we recommend a treatment called intralipid therapy, which is an infusion of lipid (the fat used in IV nutrition support) to help bind the marijuana and allow it to be eliminated from the body faster,” Dr. Stacy Meola, a criticalist at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Colorado, told the American Kennel Society. (Veterinary criticalists are specialists in emergency and critical care medicine.)

To avoid accidental marijuana ingestion, VCA Hospitals recommends that owners “keep all forms of cannabis, medical or recreational, out of reach of your pet.” Pets should also be kept in a “a separate and well-ventilated room” to avoid secondhand smoke inhalation.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is available 24/7 to take all calls about dogs eating THC or CBD and can be reached at 888-426-4435.