It happens more commonly than you think. Our canine companions find most forms of weed appealing and this means your pup is likely to consume any and all marijuana or THC they happen to find.
In fact, many times when a pet parent presents a dog who is showing clear signs of THC ingestion, they have absolutely no idea where they found it—but it doesn't take much for a typical dog to show pretty obvious symptoms of marijuana poisoning.
Recreational marijuana is legal in more places than ever now, and THC-tourism is a booming industry. As a result, our pets have even more opportunity than ever to come across marijuana in all its forms. Fortunately, the general rule is that THC or marijuana ingestion is rarely life-threatening for dogs, and a trip to the vet is usually not necessary.
That being said, every pet parent can benefit from learning the signs of THC toxicity in dogs and how to manage them, including the warning signs that indicate your pet needs veterinary attention. Regardless of if you or anyone in your family uses these products, they're ubiquitous, so it's best to be prepared.
Eating marijuana or other products that contain THC isn't usually dangerous, but it can have some pretty serious effects for your dog. They don't appear to be having a great time after consuming it, instead, if your dog ate weed, they end up feeling out of control and pretty sick.
It's not hard to imagine how disorienting and downright scary that must be for them. Additionally, size matters when it comes to weed dosing, so a small dog who eats a lot of weed can end up experiencing potentially life-threatening issues. Think about it: if you're supposed to take only one or two squares of that infused chocolate bar, what kind of overdose is your 6-pound pomeranian going to experience after he finds and eats the entire thing?
Unfortunately there is no clear answer to this question. That's because there isn't really any standardization or quality control about how strong or concentrated most weed products are. Sure, your product is likely to have a claim on the label for the percentage of THC in it, but none of that is verified or regulated the way traditional medications are.
As a result, it is usually not possible to have an accurate idea of how much THC a clearly affected dog actually consumed. Additionally, as long as marijuana remains classified as a Schedule One controlled substance by the federal government, scientists are unfortunately limited on doing research and producing data to answer these types of questions with scientific evidence.
The answer is yes! So don't leave it around for them to find or blow smoke in their face, or expose them to weed in any other way. The "high" a dog experiences is not a good time; they experience different symptoms as a result of THC ingestion than humans do, and it's not pleasant.
Those of us who know and love dogs already understand that self-control is usually not one of their strengths. Most dogs have little control when it comes to chewing on things, so they have no restraint when it comes to finding a stash. They will often eat everything they find all at once, regardless of whether it's an edible or just plain weed. Dogs usually also weigh less than humans do, so the effects are going to be more profound.
All of this adds up to them not having a good time if they eat weed. More importantly, if your dog happens to have underlying health issues, a weed overdose is more likely to have serious consequences.
Every dog is different and the effects will also depend on the dose consumed compared to body weight. It's also important to remember that each dog may not show all the symptoms all the time. Regardless, there's still a general pattern of symptoms and behavior that are relatively typical for THC ingestion. Video sharing platforms are easily searchable for examples of dogs who've ingested THC, so watching a few can give you an idea if this may be what's going on with your dog.
Typical symptoms of marijuana ingestion in dogs include:
A sudden onset of strange symptoms for an otherwise healthy pet
Being really sleepy
Wobbly, uncoordinated movements
Urinary accidents or dribbling urine
Being jumpy or startling easily
Vomiting (sometimes, not always)
Low body temperature (this means it's useful to have a way to check your pet's rectal temperature)
Even though a dog who's eaten enough weed will experience really profound effects, it's worth noting that they won't typically show symptoms that are associated with other types of emergencies. Their gums will usually remain pink and not turn pale, grey, or white like they do when a dog is in shock. They don't usually have trouble breathing either. If you offer a small treat, they're still likely to take it in many cases.
It's important to keep in mind that other things can cause similar symptoms, so if there's any uncertainty regarding whether your dog's symptoms are caused by eating weed or not, it's best to get your pup to a veterinarian as quickly as possible.
You can mistake the ingestion of other medications, particularly blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications, and some other types of household chemicals for weed. It's always better to be safe than sorry. Even though it's relatively good news if your dog ate weed since it's usually not dangerous, get medical attention if there's any doubt about what he got into.
Symptoms of marijuana ingestion usually start about 30-90 minutes following ingestion. They're usually mild at first, but can continue to get progressively worse over the next few hours. In the vast majority of cases, these symptoms will wear off without any specific treatment within 24 hours. If a really small dog eats a really large amount of weed, it may take upwards of 48 hours for the symptoms to wear off.
There are four primary things you can look at to determine if you absolutely cannot delay getting your dog to the vet: body temperature, swallowing, loss of consciousness, and how comfortable you are monitoring your dog.
We mentioned low body temperature earlier, but what's too low? A dog's normal body temperature is around 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit (38ºC). THC toxicity pushes it lower. If your dog's rectal temperature drops below 99ºF (37ºC), he needs professional medical care.
If your dog loses the ability to swallow normally, that's another sign you need to get them to the vet. You can test this by offering a treat or pulling gently on his tongue. If your dog can't manage a treat or doesn't pull their tongue back in to swallow, they need to get to the vet.
Weed makes dogs really sleepy, but you should still be able to wake your dog up. If you can't, he needs to get to the vet.
It is important you feel confident monitoring your dog. Nursing them through an episode like this can be a lot of work and super stressful. If this is out of your comfort zone, get your dog to the vet and let the professionals take care of them.
It's reassuring to know that the vast majority of cases of marijuana ingestion do not require veterinary attention, hospitalization, or treatment. Most dogs can simply sleep it off at home. There is no antidote, so even if your dog is in the hospital receiving treatment, that treatment will primarily be supportive care. That means the veterinary team will be doing things to help make it easier for your dog while waiting for the THC to wear off, as well as taking some steps to get the symptoms to pass more quickly.
If you prefer trying to manage this at home and avoid an emergency visit, make sure you keep your pet in a safe, confined space in case they are uncoordinated. It can be helpful to set an alarm for at least every two hours so you can check on your dog. Try to wake your pup up and make an effort to get him to walk around a little bit. Remember that urinary incontinence can be a problem, so be sure he is warm, clean, and dry. Keep an eye on his temperature and check that he can swallow. Offer food and water. Going through the motions can help the THC wear off faster, even if he is unable to walk around or eat treats.
If, however, your dog starts showing more serious symptoms than what was described above, his body temperature gets too low, or you cannot wake him up, or if you're otherwise worried about him in general, it's best to talk to a vet sooner rather than later. It's always better to be safe than sorry.
The proverbial ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep products containing THC securely stored out of reach and don't let your dog roam off a leash. Even unsupervised access in your fenced back yard can potentially lead to problems. Taking steps to minimize opportunities for exposure can go a long way towards helping your pup stay happy and healthy.
Reviewed and fact-checked by
Dr. Mari, DVM at Pawp