The Impact of THC Ingestion on Pets: A Veterinarian's Perspective

August 10, 2023

Pets are family members, and we all want our family members to stay healthy. So what happens if your pet accidentally ingests THC, by getting into an edible or nibbling on a marijuana plant?

Ahna Brutlag, a veterinary toxicologist, said it's a question she's getting a lot more frequently nowadays. Brutlag is a director at the Pet Poison Helpline, a Bloomington-based international poison control service aimed at saving animals from toxic poisoning. The helpline accepts calls 24/7 and assists both vets and pet owners with questions they have about animal poisoning cases.

"When state laws started to change and recreational cannabis became more easily accessible, in other states, we really started to see an uptick in the number of cases," Brutlag said. Minnesotans are now able to possess and grow their own recreational marijuana, thanks to legislation that went into effect Aug. 1.

She says cannabis is among the top 15 toxins her helpline gets calls about. Thankfully, she says, it is rarely deadly. However, animals can become quite frightened.

"It can be quite scary [for a dog or cat] because they don’t know what is happening. So they might start hiding," she said. "We see very commonly, especially with dogs, as they will start having urine dribbling. These animals can become extremely comatose, sometimes we see them becoming very, very anxious. Their heart rate can go up, their blood pressure can go up."

She says that loss of coordination is also an issue.

"So it’s much more easier for them to fall off the couch, or fall down the stairs, and they could hurt themselves as well, so you could have traumatic injury on top of a poisoning case as well," she said.

Ensuring Pet Safety

Expert Advice on THC and CBD Consumption

Ahna Brutlag said cases can become deadly if a pet consumes both THC and something else that is bad for them. Take a weed brownie, for example, which contains chocolate.

"That’s unfortunately a double whammy. And those are the cases that we can really see pretty significant intoxication and fatality," Brutlag said.

If you notice any symptoms or are curious about your pet's safety after they came into contact with a toxin such as THC, she urges pet owners to contact a vet right away. They can also visit the Pet Poison Helpline website or call at (855) 764-7661. Note that an $85 fee applies for a consultation call.

As for CBD treats marketed for pets, Brutlag urges pet owners to proceed with caution. Since CBD alone does not contain the high-inducing component of THC, she said some of those treats can be safe.

But she warned, "Those brands can be wildly mislabeled and contaminated. We certainly have seen cases where dogs get CBD treats or chew into a bag of CBD treats, and they look like a dog who was exposed to a large amount of marijuana. That’s probably because those CBD treats contain THC, either by accident or intentionally."

She says it's best to always contact your vet before starting anything new.


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