The usual pet toxicity case involves a dog that has inadvertently eaten a stash of marijuana. In the dog, clinical signs typically begin 30-90 minutes after the marijuana has been eaten. Because THC is stored in the body’s fat deposits, the effects of marijuana ingestion can last for days.
Signs include: incoordination and listlessness along with dilated pupils, slow heart rate and sometimes urinary incontinence. A characteristic startle reaction has been described where the pet appears drowsy and even may begin to fall over but catches balance. Marijuana toxicity can look similar to intoxication with numerous other sedatives. It is very important for all the relevant information to be presented to the veterinarian if the pet is to be helped; veterinarians are not obligated to report to local police. If you know marijuana was involved in an intoxication it is important to make this information known to the attending doctor. Obviously this goes for other recreational drugs as well.
If less than thirty minutes have passed since the marijuana has been eaten it may be possible to induce vomiting but after symptoms have started, the nausea control properties of THC make it very difficult to induce vomiting. Further, if the patient is extremely sedated, vomiting can be dangerous as vomit can be inhaled and cause a very serious and deadly aspiration pneumonia.
Activated charcoal is a liquid material used in the treatment of poisoning. Activated charcoal is given orally and as it passes from one end to the other, toxins are trapped in the charcoal so that when the charcoal passes from the patient, the toxins pass, too. This technique of detoxification may be used in the treatment of marijuana toxicity if ingestion has occurred recently.
Fluid support and keeping the patient warm may also be needed in treatment. If the patient has lost consciousness, the more intense observation and support is needed. The chance of fatality is statistically small but possible. In most cases, the patient can simply be confined so as to prevent injury until the THC wears off.
Page last updated: 12/10/2012