Marijuana Toxicity in Pets

Written by: Nancy M. Thompson, CVT- Boston West Veterinary Emergency & Specialty

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Marijuana has become legal in many states and is becoming very common in households for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. With this, the Pet Poison Helpline line has experienced a 448% increase in marijuana toxicity cases over the past 6 years. Here’s some information that you need to know about marijuana ingestion in pets.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana or Cannabis sativa/Cannabis indica is used for recreational and medicinal use. Tetrahydrocannabinol (TCH) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two most commonly recognized, utilized, and studied cannabinoids (although there are over 80 different cannabinoids in marijuana plants.) The primary difference between between the two is that:

  • THC causes psychotropic effects and has a moderate level of toxicity.
  • CBD is non-psychotropic and is felt by many investigators to be non-toxic or have limited toxicity.

The exact amount of each cannabinoid varies widely from strain to strain and plant to plant.

Clinical signs of marijuana toxicity in pets

Pets can be poisoned by marijuana in many different ways, such as ingesting marijuana edibles (brownies or pot butter), ingesting their owner’s marijuana supply in any formulation, or by secondhand smoke. Some common symptoms of toxicity you may see are:

  • Sedation/lethargy
  • Dilated pupils or glassed over eyes
  • Dazed expression
  • Difficulty walking
  • Vomiting

More severe symptoms can include:

  • Low or high heart rate
  • Vocalization such a whining/crying
  • Agitation
  • Trouble regulating temperature causing body temperature to drop or rise
  • Incontinence/dribbling of urine
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Potentially coma

Signs can be seen anywhere from 5 minutes to 12 hours after marijuana exposure and can last from 30 minutes to several days depending on the dose ingested and the size of the pet.


Although there is no true antidote for marijuana, veterinarians can give supportive care to help pets through the clinical sings. This may include:

  • Supportive care for regulating body temperature to ensure pets aren’t too hot or cold
  • IV/SQ fluids to help maintain hydration
  • Anti-vomiting medication to help with fluid loss
  • Monitoring the pet’s heart rate to ensure it’s stable
  • Providing a safe area so pets don’t injure themselves if they’re having trouble walking.
  • In some cases, veterinarians may give activated charcoal (a liquid pets drink that helps to bind the toxin in the stomach or intestines and prevent absorption into the body.

Pets typically do well with supportive care, however large ingestions of marijuana can be dangerous. Some common problems with diagnosing and treating marijuana toxicity is due to incomplete history due to stigma, owners being on vacation, pharmaceutical products, or legal repercussions. It’s important to reassure owners that the hospital is only interested in providing appropriate medical care for their pet. This is necessary so that their pet is getting treated appropriately and not getting anything that isn’t necessary.


To prevent marijuana toxicity in your pets you must keep marijuana edibles and products out of reach in high cabinets or a locked drawer when not in use. If marijuana is being smoked, pets should be kept in a separate area with good ventilation until the smoke has cleared.

If you feel that your pet has ingested marijuana your best course of action is to have them seen and treated.

And please remember: it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about! If you don’t tell us that there is even a possibility that your pet ingested marijuana, then their diagnosis and treatment can be delayed. We are only interested in your pet’s wellbeing! 




Support Animals and the Planet with the Ten Year Challenge

Written by: Ali McNamara, RVT, Hospital Clinical Coordinator, Vista Veterinary Specialists

Earlier this year, social media was swarming with the comparing and contrasting of the #10yearchallenge. It’s fun, right? A good opportunity to compare funny hairstyles, remember memories from college, or even have a good belly laugh. But what about when you compare, contrast and maybe realize something so small is actually VERY big.

Let’s talk about your trash

In light of the #10yearchallenge let’s take a minute to talk about your trash. I know, I know what you are thinking, “My trash?” Isn’t this supposed to be about animals? Well, actually it is. And actually, your trash has more effects on this planet and the animals in it than most people think.

When I say your trash, more specifically I mean single use plastic. What’s this? This is your Starbucks cups, your plastic baggies that hold your carrots for lunch, even your shampoo bottles you purchase monthly. But, let’s slow down a minute and talk about why all of this matters.

How much plastic is in our ocean?

According to, in March of 2018, a study was performed by UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). This study gathered information surrounding the amount of plastic found in our oceans every year. Do you even want to know?…Approximately eight metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans; and that is just yearly! What if you added up two years? Or five? Or, what if you added up ten? Don’t do that math!

So what does this have to do with animals?

Okay, okay. For people who aren’t about the numbers, let’s circle back. Plastic. Animals. Ocean. I’ve thrown a lot at you all at once. What do all these things have to do with one another?

Well, as human beings, naturally we look for the path of least resistance. In the 1960s plastic was introduced as a shipping method, but fast forward to the 1980s about ¾ of the super markets were now using them for their everyday customer, and the consumer was loving it. It was convenient right?

Still not connecting for you yet? Don’t worry… let’s talk about the animals now. At this point you get it — plastic is clearly overused. But here’s the thing: it’s not just overused, it is literally killing our oceans and the planet’s entire ecosystem. This isn’t about politics or climate change, this is about the simple facts.

One area in particular that is suffering the most is the coral reef. In a nutshell, a quick Google search will provide you with a bunch of scientific terms resulting in the fact that the coral reef is the foundation of our oceans. They are the backbone. Essentially our ecosystem needs them. We need them. The coral reef is often referred to as the “rain forests of the ocean.” They provide homes, shelter, and food for so many different species; things cannot, and quite frankly, will not function with out them.

A study done in 2011 (so almost a decade ago) stated that if something is not done now, by 2030, 90% of our coral reef is going to be gone. Wait, I know what you are thinking… it’s 2019. So, here is my question to you. What will that #10yearchallenge look like?

Plastic: you can do without it

Trash and pollution isn’t the only thing harming our oceans, but it is one area that your average every day person can control. I’m not asking you to throw out every piece of plastic in your life. I am asking you to stop, and think… can I go with out plastic?

For starters, can you go with out your weekly purchase of a flat of plastic water bottles? What if you invest in the upfront purchase of a reusable water bottle, which, in turn, would actually save you money?

What if instead of putting your carrots in that plastic baggie, you invest in reusable glass containers and gave up the plastic baggies altogether? But, hold on, here is my favorite. Don’t give up your Starbucks, just simply bring your cup. Most places actually pay YOU, the consumer, when you bring your own bag or cup!

But I’m just one person

I’m not asking you to move mountains, I’m simply asking you to be mindful of your consumption. Most people think, “Oh, I am just one person, how can I actually matter?”

Well, here is the hard truth. You do. We all do. We have no other options at this point, there is no #planetB.

So, do your part, because if you don’t, our #10yearchallenge won’t be a funny hair style, or a good belly laugh, it will be a devastation for us all. This is no longer an option between “paper or plastic,” this is a global crisis.

As one of my favorite’s once said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

-Ali McNamara, RVT
Hospital Clinical Coordinator
Vista Veterinary Specialists


Can Clinical Trials on Dogs and Cats Help People?

“We can ask much more scientifically rigorous questions that are more likely to intersect with human health,” says Chand Khanna, who founded NIH’s Comparative Oncology Program in 2003 and is now the chief science officer with Ethos Veterinary Health, a new Woburn, Massachusetts-based network of veterinary hospitals that plans to conduct clinical trials. “The mouse has prove[n] itself time and time again to be a bad investment. The dog is an alternative to something we know doesn’t work.” Read this article.