Table of Contents Show
Have you ever met a stoned dog? No? (Good!) Well, I’m a vet, and I have. Dogs become stoned due to consuming marijuana, a strain of the cannabis plant that differs from the more benign hemp strains in that it contains high levels of the psychoactive compound THC.
THC is toxic to our canine companions and produces the characteristic ‘stoned’ appearance, further described in the following section. THC toxicity in dogs is more common than you might think. When it does occur, it is nearly always the result of a dog having accidentally gained access to and consuming marijuana.
In my experience as a vet in the United Kingdom, I have found that THC toxicity in dogs is frequently combined with chocolate toxicity, as a result of the dog stealing and eating hash brownies. Of course, in these instances, we need to consider treating both the chocolate toxicity (which can be very dangerous in its own right) and the THC toxicity.
Perhaps the most important thing to know if your dog appears stoned due to consuming marijuana is that your pet requires immediate veterinary attention and that you should not be afraid to seek this, even if cannabis is not legal where you live.
Your vet only wants to help you and your pet; we are doctors, and we are not in the business of judging you or your lifestyle choices. Nor are we the police!
So, if your dog is suffering the effects of marijuana toxicity, do not feel that you can’t tell your vet honestly what has happened. If you don’t tell us that your dog has eaten marijuana, then we cannot treat him or her as effectively.
Whilst we can certainly provide general treatment for ‘unknown’ toxin exposures, this is not as effective as a more specific treatment when we know exactly what toxin has been consumed and ideally, how much of it.
How To Tell If A Dog Is Stoned
Dogs who are suffering from THC toxicity may exhibit some or all of the following clinical signs:
- ‘ Stoned’ appearance
- Over or under-reactivity to stimuli, such as sounds or touch
- Ataxia; is the medical term for disordered coordination. Your dog may have great difficulty with balance and walking
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Difficulty appropriately regulating their body temperature, which can be dangerous
- Slowed heart rate and/or breathing rate, which again can be dangerous is severe cases
- Low blood pressure
- Overexcitement and/or agitation in some cases
- Extreme lethargy, stupor, and/or coma in other cases
How To Get A Dog Unstoned
The following are the ways you can get your dog unstoned;
‘Emesis’ is the technical term for medically induced vomiting. Suppose you can get your dog to the vet very quickly after the ingestion of THC, before the signs of being stoned have set in. In that case, your vet may be able to give your dog medication that will cause him or her to throw up the marijuana before clinical signs occur.
Once a dog appears visibly stoned, it is no longer safe to make your dog vomit, as they may aspirate (inhale vomit into their airways).
What’s more, cannabis has anti-emetic (anti-vomit) properties, which tend to kick in around 30 minutes after ingestion. So even if we did try to induce emesis we’d be unlikely to be successful.
So, if the marijuana consumption occurred more than 30 minutes before your dog arrives at the vet, alternative treatment options must be initiated.
The effects of THC toxicity will wear off eventually; they do not last forever. However, in moderate or severe cases of THC toxicity, it can be vitally important to medically support your dog through the effects, especially if their respiratory rate, heart rate, or blood pressure is becoming dangerously low.
Likewise, in moderate and severe cases of THC toxicity, your pet is at risk of experiencing difficulty with regulating their body temperature or experiencing seizures or coma.
Again, in these cases, medical intervention is vitally important to support your dog until the effects of the THC wear off.
3. Intralipid Infusion
Intralipid is a special infusion your vet can administer to your dog as an intravenous fluid (drip into a vein). It works to bind and neutralize the THC in your dog’s bloodstream so that it passes through your dog’s system without causing any effects.
The science behind intralipid revolves around the fact that THC is a fat-soluble molecule. Intralipid infusion is a ‘fatty’ liquid, so once inside your dog’s bloodstream, it can bind the THC and effectively inactivate it.
In my experience, intralipid is the best treatment method currently at our disposal for treating THC toxicity in dogs. It acts fast, is highly effective, and sometimes may be life-saving.
Suppose your dog is experiencing neurological over-excitation and/or seizures due to their THC toxicity. In that case, your vet may decide that it is best to administer a gentle sedative such as diazepam to reduce the risk of seizures and keep your pet calm.
Of course, since both sedation and being ‘stoned’ routinely result in lowered blood pressure, heart, and respiratory rates, these vitals will need to be monitored extra closely in the veterinary hospital to ensure that they do not drop too low.
5. Try Activated Charcoal
Once your dog is aware and alert enough to be safely fed without the risk of aspiration, your vet may prescribe activated charcoal given orally as part of their treatment plan for the THC toxicity.
Activated charcoal works by trapping the toxin within the digestive tract, thus preventing even more of it from being absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream. Once trapped by the activated charcoal, the toxin can pass through your dog’s digestive tract (and out the other side!) without causing negative effects.
What Won’t Work To Get A Dog Unstoned
Here are the things that won’t work when you want to get your dog unstoned;
- Coffee or other stimulants. I guarantee you that they will make matters worse I guarantee you…so please, don’t try this.
- CBD. There is no evidence to support the notion that CBD helps in any way to counteract the effects of being stoned in dogs.
- Feeding a large amount of food. The risk here is that your dog may not be alert and coordinated enough to chew and swallow their food safely. Feeding your dog whilst they are stoned is likely to result in aspiration of food into their airways, which is extremely dangerous. Please don’t do it.
THC toxicity in dogs is common and frequently seen in combination with chocolate toxicity.
You should not be afraid, to be honest with your vet; it is in your pet’s best interests to give your vet as much information as possible about what was consumed, when, and how much.
A vet best treats THC toxicity with an intravenous intralipid infusion and supportive care. You should never attempt to treat any case of THC toxicity yourself at home as this may be very dangerous and result in a bad outcome for your dog.