Weed and dogs explained
Medical-use marijuana is now legal in 38 states – and 18 permit it for recreational use, with new cannabis stores opening all the time. What does that mean for our pets? More dogs than ever are getting their jaws on a joint when their owners accidentally leave them in reach. If you suspect your dog’s stolen some weed, or another poisonous plant, what should you do?
My dog ate a joint!
Unfortunately, it’s quite common. The Pet Poison Helpline reports a 448% increase in calls about dogs ingesting marijuana since 2015.
So if you were enjoying a recreational joint – or you keep a stash for medicinal purposes – and your dog decided to sample it, here’s all you need to know.
Wait... has my dog eaten a joint?
Dogs explore with their noses... and, when they can, with their mouths! Your dog might decide to try a weed brownie, or another marijuana edible. They might even chomp on a whole joint. If you have marijuana in the house, you should keep it safely stored away, and be aware that it might affect your dog.
If your dog has eaten a joint or cannabis ‘edible’, you’ll see symptoms within an hour or so. Watch out for these signs that your dog has eaten marijuana:
- Stumbling or unbalanced walking
- Glazed eyes
- Discomfort, confusion, or whining
Eating weed is rarely fatal. In rare cases, your dog can go into a coma as a result of eating weed.
How long will my dog be high?
The effects of marijuana ingestion can last for 5 minutes or as long as a few days. It depends how much your dog ate or inhaled.
Can my dog get a secondhand high?
Yes, they can. Inhaling secondhand smoke can also cause the symptoms listed above. A “high” dog might look entertaining – with a dazed look and wobbly legs – but he will probably be confused and anxious. It’s not relaxing when they don’t know what has happened to them. Veterinarians recommend keeping your dog in another, ventilated, room while you are smoking weed.
Is marijuana bad for dogs?
Yes. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychotropic component of cannabis. But it does more than make your dog feel hazy. It is toxic to dogs, so it can cause vomiting, seizures, and changes in body temperature.
So it’s vital to get your dog to the veterinarian as soon as you suspect they’ve ingested weed.
My dog ate a joint – how do I help him?
Until you can get your dog to the vet, encourage them to keep still and comfortable, and provide extra fluids. You can help by giving reassurance and strokes, since your dog will definitely be feeling worried.
Tell the vet how much you think your dog has eaten, and be honest. Your vet has no duty to report you, but will be responsible for delivering the best care to your dog.
The vet can help to keep your dog hydrated (which helps to flush out toxins) and cool and still (so they won’t fall over). They might also give your dog activated charcoal. This works by binding to the toxins inside the stomach so that they’re not absorbed into the body.
If you return home, you will need to keep giving your dog comfort and care, ensuring they drink a lot until the symptoms have passed.
What about giving CBD to dogs?
CBD (cannabidiol) is the component of hemp that does not get you high. It’s also become a popular supplement in recent years, and it is legal, provided it meets the legislated criteria. CBD is thought to help people with anxiety, aches and pains, and epilepsy. It has been subject to scientific research and the FDA has approved at least one drug containing CBD for the treatment of epilepsy. In 2022, CBD was also shown to help the human body to fight against COVID-19.
CBD is non-psychotic and, if it’s in a supplement which contains less than 0.2% THC, is considered low-risk for people and animals. Owners have had success using it to relieve pain and seizures in their dogs. In fact, the American Kennel Club has recently sponsored a study to find out whether CBD can be used to treat epileptic dogs. A study published in PAIN journal showed that CBD significantly decreased pain and increased mobility for dogs who suffered from arthritic pain – with effects seen within a month.
However, we have to add a warning here: there are not yet enough scientific studies to prove the benefits of CBD for dogs. Some veterinarians have raised concerns about the way that CBD can interfere with other medications, and cause side effects that are not fully known.
Can you give pot to dogs?
No. You shouldn’t give pot to dogs because it contains high levels of THC (the toxic component of cannabis). CBD supplements are different – they are actually made from the hemp plant and carefully monitored to supply legal levels of THC. If you want to try CBD for your dog, make sure you choose a certified supplier.
Help! My dog ate paint...
If you’re doing some decorating and saw your dog eat paint, you’re right to be concerned. What type of paint has your dog eaten?
Lead-based paints were banned in 1977 – this was the most poisonous kind of paint – but paint still contains ingredients which are poisonous for your dog. Oil-based paints can contain toxic solvents or ethylene glycol and cause respiratory as well as gastrointestinal problems. Water-based paints are generally safer, containing lower amounts of volatile compounds, but if eaten in volume, these paints can cause stomach upset for your dog too.
Because every paint is different, it’s never safe to assume that your dog will be okay. So whether your dog licked a drip of paint, or started drinking paint from the tin, you should check the label and call your vet for emergency advice.
If your dog ate dried paint, or chewed on something which was painted long ago, it could be even more serious because lead-based paint can affect the digestive, neurological and muscular system.
Lead poisoning can be identified through a blood test, which you can arrange through your vet.
Help! My dog ate a poisonous plant...
There are many poisonous things in our homes and gardens. Inside the home, the ASPCA warns owners to keep their bleach, carpet fresheners, toilet cleaner and even essential oils out of their pets’ reach. Outside is just as dangerous – with many plants posing a serious hazard to our dogs.
If your dog has chewed on a poisonous plant, your first call should always be the vet. It will be helpful if you can tell the vet exactly what your dog ate, and how much.
If your dog is an adventurous chewer then it’s probably a good idea to remove poisonous plants from the garden. Here are 10 plants which can cause ill effects for dogs:
10 plants which are toxic to dogs...
1 – Christmas Rose or Hellebore. The beautiful Hellebore is toxic for aminals, producing vomiting, diarrhoea and gastrointestinal pain.
2 – Apricot tree. The leaves and stems actually contain cyanide – and eating these can lead to oxygen shortages and even death in dogs.
3 – Japonica, Azalea and Rhodedendron. These contain a toxin which can affect your dog’s heart; even a small amount can cause vomiting, low blood pressure, and death.
4 – Dicentra or Bleeding Hearts. These familiar garden favorites (with heart-shaped flowers that are usually pink or white) contain alkaloids, which can cause rashes, vomiting and tremors.
5 – Bird of Paradise. It’s beautiful and striking, but eating the Bird of Paradise can cause intense vomiting and diarrhoea for dogs.
6 – Japanese Boxwood. It’s a fashionable border edging. But the leaves of this popular hedge shrub are poisonous to animals. As well as vomiting and diarrhoea, symptoms can include seizures.
7 – Cherry tree. All types of cherry shrub and tree actually contain cyanide, which makes them some of the most poisonous plants, causing respiratory difficulty and even death.
8 – Chrysanthemum. Dogs might wander in the garden, looking for grass to eat and aid digestion. But eating the leaves of chrysanthemum will usually cause vomiting and poor appetite.
9 – Hydrangea. The leaves contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can make your dog lethargic as well as causing gastrointestinal problems.
10 – Mountain Laurel. Also called “sheepkill”, this plant is highly toxic, affecting heart as well as stomach, and sometimes causing death.
What to do if your dog eats poisonous plants...
So you looked out the window and saw your dog munching on a shrub? Keep a close eye on them.
In most cases, the effects will depend on how much your dog ate. So identify the plant – and take a cutting if you’re unsure – and contact your vet. Symptoms could be mild and short-lived, but on the other hand, they could be severe. It’s always best to make a call, even if your dog seems to be okay so far.