Marijuana legalization has been sweeping across the United States since the mid-1990s. Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, with the newest being Illinois in 2020, and a whopping 33 states have legalized medical marijuana.

Marijuana usages range from leisure activity all the way to treating nausea in cancer patients. The growing ubiquity of the drug is the topic of many conversations regarding how people use it, and with it brings a big concern for pet owners: “What do I do if my pet ate weed?”

The rise of legal marijuana throughout the nation has directly correlated with an upsurge of cannabis-related pet poisonings.

According to Pet Poison Hotline, “marijuana poisoning cases have increased 448% over the past six years.”

As a pet owner, do you know what to do when a dog eats weed? Even if you don’t use the drug, marijuana will only become more common and accessible to curious pets. It’s important to inform yourself about the dangers of marijuana – specifically THC – when ingested by a pup.

Illinois Welcomes Marijuana in 2020

4 star Chicago city Flag

As of January 1, 2020, Illinois has become the 11th state to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. Before 2020, marijuana was decriminalized in Illinois, but it was never fully legal until now. Weed is now more accessible than ever, which increases the chances that your pup might ingest this toxic plant.

Prudent Pet Veterinary Technician, Pati Ostaszewski, has seen every form of health issue with pets during her time working as a vet tech. Her role saw everything from ingested marijuana to broken legs and swallowed socks, which only aids her expertise in this field. She also has some knowledgeable advice for any pet that ingest marijuana, specifically in the newly legalized state of Illinois.

“Be honest with your veterinarian. Most ingestion cases are pretty apparent. It happens, it’s okay. Just tell the professionals and they can get started on the treatment right away,” Ostaszewski said. “In order to minimize the damages, such as self-harm, seizures, and comas, the veterinarians need to diagnose the issue as quickly as possible.”

Unfortunately for the doggos of Illinois, these weed ingestion cases might continue to rise with the increasing sales of marijuana. Local Chicago dispensaries saw a massive volume of customers flock to their stores on January 1, the first day of legalization.

What is THC?

Man measuring weed buds in scale

The most important thing to understand about THC is that it’s not synonymous with CBD. Though both THC and CBD are found in marijuana, these compounds are actually very different.

Cannabidiol (CBD) has recently emerged as a wellness trend for humans and is especially effective as a pain and anxiety treatment for dogs.  CBD does not make you high, is not illegal anywhere in the U.S., and does not contain THC.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the compound in marijuana that is psychoactive, giving one the feeling of being “high”. For humans, THC affects one’s pleasure, movement, concentration, coordination, thinking, as well as sensory and time perception.

Even though marijuana can be medically prescribed for humans, it is not safe for dogs to consume. Just because a substance is safe for you does not mean it is safe for your pups – this is especially true for THC because cannabis and dogs can be a deadly combination.

Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs

Puppy lying on floor

Experienced pet owners know that dogs are curious animals that can find their way into just about anything, and marijuana is certainly not excluded. Dogs are most commonly exposed to cannabis from ingesting the cigarettes or eating the dried leaves and leftover baked goods containing marijuana.

So what happens if a dog eats marijuana? The toxicity of cannabis is fairly low and takes approximately 1.5 grams of marijuana per pound of body weight to be fatal. But this doesn’t mean that it’s safe: dogs can become uncoordinated, lethargic, and can experience hallucinations if marijuana is ingested.

The biggest danger, however, is the vomiting that occurs as a side effect for canines when they ingest marijuana. When a dog becomes lethargic and begins to vomit, they can experience aspiration of the vomit into the lungs. This is extremely dangerous and could lead to fatal breathing issues.

Many assume that when exposed to marijuana, a dog gets high in the same way a human does. But according to Dr. Mark Liberto dogs do not get stoned. If you are aware that your dog ate weed and you’re wondering how long it will last, don’t wait and find out. Dogs don’t come down from a high the same as people do and could be harmed by the THC.

Here are some signs of THC toxicity in dogs:

  • Lethargy
  • Trouble breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Loss of balance
  • Dilated pupils
  • Urinary incontinence

If you believe your dog ingested weed or any other dangerous substance, you can speak with an expert at the Pet Poison Helpline.

What to Do If Your Dog Eats Weed

Dogs don’t always display signs of THC toxicity right away – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk. If your dog eats marijuana, or even if you think they did, there are two imperative actions to take:

  1. Go to the Vet Immediately

It’s easy for a vet to induce vomiting if less than 30 minutes have passed since the dog ate weed. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes for the dog to vomit due to the nausea control properties of THC. This is when the aspiration of vomit becomes a real danger. Luckily, you can put your worries at bay if you have a good dog insurance plan that can help cover the bills.

  1. Be Honest with Your Vet

Honesty is always the best policy. If your dog ate pot brownies, for example, relay that information to your veterinarian. The more info a vet has, the more prepared they will be to help.

Veterinarians and Marijuana

Vet examine dog

Unfortunately, pet owners are not always truthful with their vets when their pups ingest marijuana. The concept of legal recreational marijuana is still pretty new and has a negative connotation for some people. This stigma has contributed to reasons why people do not want to admit that their dog ate pot:

Pet Owners Fear Legal Consequences

Vets are not obligated to give a statement about the presence of marijuana and do not report on drug intoxications. Knowing that there are no legal consequences to seeking help for marijuana ingestion, always be upfront with your veterinarian.

Pet Owners Feel Ashamed or Embarrassed

It’s common knowledge that many states are legalizing recreational and medical marijuana. Accidents happen; you most likely wouldn’t feel ashamed to tell your vet if your dog ate chocolate, so don’t feel embarrassed about marijuana. A veterinarian’s top concern is always the health of your dog.

In short: cannabis and dogs do not mix. The number of marijuana users is rising and with it, the number of pets getting sick and dying from it. Although it’s a recreational and medical substance for humans, marijuana is bad for dogs.

If your dog finds your weed, take them to the vet as soon as possible. And even more importantly: be honest with your vet so they can provide proper care.

If you want to ensure those expensive vet bills are covered if your dog accidentally ingests marijuana, learn about the numerous benefits of dog insurance.

The information provided on this website is made available for educational purposes only. It should in no way be substituted for professional veterinary assessment of each individual patient by a suitably qualified veterinary surgeon or veterinarian.