Discovering that your shih tzu ate your stash is an instant buzz kill.
One minute, you’re lost in your favorite song and trying to figure out if Goofy was actually a dog, and the next, you’re looking at a sandwich bag that’s been ripped to shreds and a twitchy dog who is clearly worried that you can hear his thoughts.
Don’t freak out, Cheech.
Your dog will probably be okay, but marijuana ingestion can be a serious issue for canines.
It will generally make your dog feel pretty terrible, and you will need to head over to the vet (take an Uber or get a friend to drive you if you’ve recently indulged). You or your vet may also want to put in a call to the animal poison control center for some additional guidance.
Luckily, with prompt treatment, he’ll likely recover completely. Read on to learn more!
Key Takeaways: My Dog Ate Weed! Is He Going to Be OK?
- THC — the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — can make dogs absolutely miserable. It is probably unlikely to kill your pet, but you will definitely want to seek veterinary guidance if your dog eats some weed (even a relatively small amount).
- There isn’t a specific antidote or treatment for marijuana consumption in canines. Instead, your vet will monitor your dog’s vitals and try to provide supportive care while waiting for the effects of marijuana to wear off (which may take several days).
- Be a good pet owner and avoid these issues by storing your weed in a dog-safe place. This not only includes marijuana plants and raw cannabis, but edibles, BHO, wax, or anything else with a significant amount of THC in it.
Pot Isn’t Good for Pets
Despite being largely considered safe for people, marijuana is toxic to dogs. This includes raw cannabis plants and dried cannabis, as well as BHO, wax, edibles, and any other cannabis product containing a significant amount of THC.
For the unfamiliar, tetrahydrocannabinol – THC – is the primary cannabinoid (active ingredient) in marijuana. It’s the chemical responsible for triggering the psychoactive effects of weed.
It’s what gets you – and, in this case, your dog – baked.
You probably have a pretty favorable opinion of THC (and recreational marijuana in general), but your pup’s opinion would likely differ. In fact, THC often triggers a number of troubling symptoms in dogs. This is part of the reason why medical marijuana for dogs isn’t very popular.
Some of the most common include:
- Lack of coordination
- Neurological symptoms
- Urinary incontinence
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive salivation
- Slow heart rate
- Muscle tremors or twitching
- Severe drowsiness
- Hypersensitivity to stimuli
It is also important to understand that while THC will only affect you for a few hours, the signs of THC toxicity can last for many hours in dogs. And in some cases, it may take a day or two for the symptoms to completely wear off.
Note that not all of the cannabinoids found in pot are harmful to pets. Cannabidiol (CBD), for example, is a cannabinoid that is responsible for many of the health benefits weed is thought to provide.
CBD doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects, and many people deliberately give CBD extracts to their dogs to address things like arthritis and epilepsy.
However, CBD extracts and similar cannabis-based health supplements contain very little to no THC.
Is Weed Fatal for Dogs?
THC is thought to affect the cortex of the human brain (the part that is responsible for interpreting external stimuli, among other things), but not the brain stem (which is essentially responsible for keeping you alive).
This led doctors and vets to assume that it shouldn’t be fatal — even in high doses.
There was also a mountain of anecdotal evidence that suggested the same. After all, there weren’t any records of people or dogs dying from a THC overdose.
But in recent years, a few troubling reports have shown that this assumption may be incorrect.
At least one person’s death has been associated with marijuana ingestion (although the doctors are careful to state that a cause-and-effect relationship was not established). Additionally, a 2012 study included a reference to two dogs who died after eating THC butter.
So, death is clearly a possibility for dogs who eat a significant amount of THC. However, the chances of this happening are pretty slim. As explained by veterinarian Eric Barchas:
The previously mentioned JVECC paper proved that it is not impossible for THC to kill a dog. But I can assure you from my professional experiences that it is very darned nearly impossible to do so. I have treated dogs who have consumed pounds of marijuana. I have treated dogs who have broken into dealers’ stashes. I have treated dogs that have grazed on Humboldt marijuana farms. I have treated Chihuahuas who have consumed packages of edibles that would floor a dozen people. They were all severely intoxicated, but not one of them came close to dying.
So, while death is clearly possible from marijuana ingestion, it is a relatively unlikely result, especially if you get over to the emergency vet quickly.
What to Expect at the Vet When Your Dog Has Eaten Marijuana
When you get to the vet, the staff will take your dog back to the exam room, take a history (How much weed did your dog eat? How long ago did he eat it?) and check your pup’s vitals.
There isn’t a specific treatment or antidote for THC poisoning, so most of the treatment provided will be supportive in nature.
If your dog ate the weed within the last half hour or so, the vet may induce vomiting to prevent his body from absorbing any more THC than it already has. He or she may also administer activated charcoal, which will help neutralize some of the THC present.
The vet will also likely set up an IV line to administer fluid therapy and treat any other problems symptomatically. Many vets will want to keep your dog for observation for 12 to 24 hours.
If marijuana ingestion is suspected, but you can’t (or won’t) confirm that your dog ate some kind bud, your vet may use a urine test kit to figure things out. They don’t (yet) make urine test kits for dogs that are capable of detecting THC (technically, the metabolites of THC), so urine tests designed for humans are typically used.
However, human tests don’t always work well for dogs, and they frequently produce false positives or false negatives. So, your vet may need to use his or her best judgment when deciding on a treatment plan.
Once your vet is satisfied that your dog is stable and likely to recover, your dog will be released to go back home with you.
Will My Vet Report Me to the Cops?
You’ll likely be arrested upon arriving at the vet, so be sure to bring bail money when you bring your dog in for treatment.
I’m just kidding. Calm down…
While it’s possible that a vet with a stick up his or her butt would contact the local authorities, few will be inclined to do so.
The vast majority of vets will only care about taking care of your dog and helping him feel better. You may get a bit of a (well-deserved) lecture regarding the safe storage of weed, but you’re unlikely to end up in handcuffs.
As explained by veterinarian Robert Proietto:
“It is also important to tell the veterinarian the truth. No veterinarian is going to judge their client for being honest and we will never contact the police. We just want to know what is going on so we can treat the pet to the best of our ability.”
Just be honest with your vet so your poor pooch can get the treatment he needs.
Comforting Your Stoned Dog
If your dog is only experiencing mild symptoms, your vet may end up sending you home with your dog before the effects of the THC have completely worn off.
Obviously, you’ll want to follow any discharge instructions provided by your vet, but you’ll also want to do whatever you can to help your dog cope while he sobers up. This primarily means keeping him calm and ensuring that he feels safe.
Some things you may want to try include:
- Hanging out in a dim room with your pup. Keep the dog-proof shades pulled to prevent him from getting riled up about the neighbor’s cat or simply experiencing more sensory stimulation than need be.
- Keeping the TV and music relatively quiet. A typical amount of background noise is fine and potentially reassuring, but don’t start blasting the tunes or watching Pineapple Express with the surround system maxed out. Some calming Dog TV may be a better choice.
- Providing physical contact or cuddling with your pet. This doesn’t mean you need to go spoon your Great Dane if that’s not how you normally interact, but you may want to let him lay up against you or across your lap if that helps him feel better.
- Gently rubbing or applying light pressure to the tips of his ears.
- Brushing him, if he normally enjoys it.
- Feeding him. Food may help reduce the effects of the weed, and eating may also make him sleepy. Just be sure that he doesn’t eat too quickly and stick to very bland foods. A small bit of boiled or baked chicken and white rice is ideal.
Stop Leaving Your Weed in Places Your Dog Can Access
Once your dog is on the path to recovery, it is important to do everything you can to prevent the problem from happening again in the future.
Among other things, this means adopting the following practices:
- Keep your marijuana edibles in your fridge or pantry where your dog can’t access them. Edible marijuana products are typically pretty tasty, which can make them especially tempting to dogs. Many edibles are also strong enough to put Willie Nelson in a coma, so they’re deserving of extra care. And don’t forget, some of the other ingredients in edibles (such as chocolate or artificial sweeteners) may also be dangerous for your pup.
- Keep your roach-filled ashtrays out of your dog’s reach if you’re a traditional cannabis enthusiast who prefers to smoke your stash. Especially if you have a dog who eats nearly anything and everything that’s nose-level.
- Keep your weed in a dog-proof container rather than a plastic bag.
- Be especially careful with high-THC extracts (Dabs, Wax, Shatter, etc.) as these can present an especially serious risk to dogs. Keep these products – as well as the assorted paraphernalia used to enjoy them – somewhere your dog can’t reach.
- Keep marijuana plants under lock and key if you grow your own.
- Be careful when cooking with THC-based ingredients. Giving your dog a piece of an ordinary dinner roll may not be a big deal, but if you buttered that roll with THC butter, it could very easily cause your dog problems.
Dogs often have a rough time after eating weed, and they’ll usually need veterinary attention to help ensure they don’t suffer from any serious problems. But fortunately, most will recover with prompt treatment.
Do you have a dog-ate-your-weed story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it. Tell us all about the experience in the comments below!
I have a “friend” who once went through quite an ordeal when the family dog ate about 8 grams. Everything turned out alright for the dog – she was nervous for a while but then just went to sleep — but it taught me him to be more careful about storing his herb in the future.