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What is Marijuana Poisoning?
Marijuana poisoning in dogs is a result of dogs ingesting the marijuana plant. Marijuana contains a chemical which produces various harmful side effects and cause poisoning in dogs.
Cannabis sativa, or the marijuana plant, is a centuries - old plant which has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. This plant contains more than 400 chemicals, one of them being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol , commonly known as THC.
THC is what brings about many of marijuana’s psychological side-effects and is similar to the chemicals that are made within our human bodies called cannabinoid chemicals. Receptors of cannabinoid are located within specific areas of the brain that are associated with our memory, pleasure, thinking, coordination, and sensory functions. Many people use marijuana recreationally for pleasure, although it is illegal in many states. Marijuana is also used for medicinal purposes in some states.
This plant is toxic to dogs, especially if a great amount is consumed. Marijuana is toxic to dogs and the animals usually come into contact with the plant by ingesting the supply of the drug that belongs to the owners. If dogs ingest at least 3 g / kg, toxicity can occur. Symptoms usually begin within one hour and may vary depending on the amount eaten.
Symptoms of Marijuana Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has eaten marijuana, the severity of the symptoms is relative to the amount he consumed. Symptoms of Cannabis sativa poisoning include:
- Body tremors
Dogs can become poisoned by marijuana in various forms. Different ways of marijuana ingestion that can greatly affect dogs include:
- Inhalation of smoke
- Ingesting pills or tinctures
- Eating edible items that contain the plant, such as brownies, candies, cakes, breads, and other baked goods
- Drinking liquids that contain marijuana oils, known as “shatter”, BHO, or “dabs”
Causes of Marijuana Poisoning in Dogs
Causes of marijuana poisoning in dogs are the ingestion of the plant parts. The following may take place within one to three hours after consuming marijuana. Specific causes of poisoning are due to the following:
- Central nervous system activity
- The release of neurotransmitters in specific areas of the brain (frontal cortex and cerebellum)
- Cannabinoids produce neuropharmacologic mechanisms
- THC is lipid soluble and easily distributed into organs and fat
- THC affects the tissues of the liver, brain, and kidneys
Diagnosis of Marijuana Poisoning in Dogs
If your dog has eaten marijuana, it is important to take him into the veterinarian even if he consumed a small amount. Although marijuana is an illegal drug in many states, it is still important to be truthful with your veterinarian in terms of your dog’s ingestion of this drug. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, including blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. The urine will be tested for cannabinoids, and the veterinarian may also perform a gas chromatography test and a chemical ion test, called a mass spectrometry. Although it may take a few days for the results to come back, the veterinarian will still be able to come up with a diagnosis of marijuana toxicity by looking at the urine in the dog’s symptoms.
During the diagnosis, if your dog is agitated due to the chemicals of the drug, the veterinarian may need to sedate him. Benzodiazepines may be used to help calm the dog in order for the veterinarian to continue with his diagnostic techniques and to begin treatment.
Differential diagnoses do exist with marijuana toxicity, and these are prescription drug overdose, such as antidepressants, drugs that stimulate the central nervous system, xylitol, hallucinogenic drugs, and other similar human medications.
Treatment of Marijuana Poisoning in Dogs
Marijuana poisoning can be serious if your dog consumed a large quantity of the plant. Due to the varying toxicities that dogs have, treatment methods will vary. Techniques the veterinarian will use to treat your dog may consist of the following:
IV fluids may be necessary if your dog has been vomiting in order to prevent dehydration. Antiemetics may also be administered through the IV; maropitant and ondansetron are typically the medications of choice. Sedation may be given if your dog is overly excited. Diazepam and chlorpromazine may be given to assist in any negative central nervous system effects.
Your dog may be given a medication to prevent him from vomiting. Due to the toxic properties of marijuana and the sedative effects your dog may be having, any vomiting your dog does must be controlled and monitored. Repeated vomiting also can cause dehydration. Your veterinarian may decide to induce vomiting if your dog has a high level of toxicity and will follow this up with activated charcoal.
Your dog’s oxygen levels and blood pressure will need to be monitored the whole time he is with the veterinarian and being treated. In severe cases of marijuana poisoning, many dogs are put on a ventilator or respirator. Thermoregulation is also conducted in severe cases.
Recovery of Marijuana Poisoning in Dogs
Marijuana toxicity can be very serious if treatment is not administered as soon as possible. Once your dog recovers, your veterinarian will discharge him. When home, you will need to closely monitor his recovery and follow any instructions your veterinarian has given you.
Your veterinarian will give you detailed directions on how to care for your dog and will tell you what you need to watch for in terms of any new symptoms. Depending on your dog, if his gastrointestinal tract was severely irritated from vomiting or diarrhea, your veterinarian may suggest a special bland diet while he is recovering.
It is important to keep any follow-up appointments with your medical professional so you can be assured your dog is becoming well once again. To prevent marijuana toxicity, it is important to keep all marijuana and all types of substances that contain marijuana out of the reach of your loved one.
Cost of Marijuana Poisoning in Dogs
Marijuana Poisoning can be an expensive treatment in dogs and can range from $500.00 to $3500.00 depending on the cost of living and severity of your Dog's marijuana poisoning. On average, the national cost of treating marijuana poisoning in dogs is $1200.00.
Marijuana Poisoning in Dogs Treatment Advice
Marijuana Poisoning Questions and Advice
We don't have the money to take my sweet girl to the vet but we suspect THC poisoning. We don't have any in my home but this morning at the dog park she ate something and since early afternoon she has not been herself. She is not vomiting and has a normal appetite. It just seems to be her behavior, and her having some trembling. Also her heart rate is about 110 but is regularly irregular. Is there anything I can do from home to help my sweet girl?
The resting heart rate of a dog may be between 70-120 beats per minute (Merck Veterinary Manual) so Rey’s heart rate is still within physiological range, plus younger dogs have a higher heart rate than older dogs. The irregular heart rate may be due to some existing heart condition (murmur or some conduction disorder) or due to some type of poisoning; there is an infinite number of possible poisoning opportunities at a park, I would recommend taking Rey to her Veterinarian regardless of cost but it is important to keep her hydrated and comfortable. Without knowing for 100% the cause of the poisoning and examining her, I cannot really recommend anything else. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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The statements expressed are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified by your local veterinarian.