Toxicities are a frequent cause for concern in veterinary medicine. There is at least one call per day to the office about different things dogs have eaten. Marijuana is the most common street drug ingested in dogs.
There are several cannabinoids present in the plant but THC is considered the most active and main psychoactive agent. THC is very attracted to fat and is easily distributed to the brain and other fatty tissues after absorption. The amount of THC in a plant can vary from 1-8%, however, genetically modified versions can contain higher levels. Most cases of toxicity in dogs are accidental from dogs eating plants, cigarettes or baked goods. Occasionally the toxicity is intentional when smoke is blown in a pets face.
The onset of action is dependent on the route of administration and the dose. Clinical signs can occur within 6-12 minutes after inhalation and 30-60 minutes after ingestion.
Clinical signs include depression, disorientation, ataxia, glassy eyes, mydriasis, recumbency, hypothermia, bradycardia, and behavioral changes. Urinary dribbling has also been reported.
A diagnosis is made primarily on history and corroborative clinical signs. There are some rapid tests available but because there are natural and synthetic varieties a negative test in pet with known exposure is possible.
Treatment is supportive care, confinement, and close monitoring. In severe cases IV fluids, treatment for agitation, low heart rate and low body temperature may be required. In severe cases kidney values should be monitored and in a few cases mechanical ventilation was required.
As with any toxicity recognition of the ingestion/ inhalation is paramount and your dog should be evaluated as soon as possible. The other important component of this is to be honest with the veterinary staff. We really don’t care that you have marijuana we just want to help you dog- this includes other drugs that your pet may have ingested… just tell us so we can help your pet.