As the use of medical and recreational marijuana continues to grow — as well as the legalization of weed in the U.S. — pet dogs have more chances of exposure than ever before. If you use marijuana or your dog is around someone who does, you may be wondering how it can affect your pup. Can dogs get high? Is weed bad for dogs?
Our experts have compiled a list of the most common questions and answers about dogs and marijuana to give you the best information you need to keep your pup safe and healthy.
Cannabis vs Marijuana vs CBD
The terminology surrounding cannabis, marijuana, and CBD can get confusing, so it’s important to have a good understanding of each term. Cannabis is a plant that comes in several species, including Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. The hemp and marijuana plants are two types of the cannabis plant.
The cannabis plant contains compounds called cannabinoids, the most widely known being THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets you high. The marijuana plant, which has many nicknames (e.g., marijuana, weed, pot, reefer, ganja, and Mary Jane), has very high levels of THC and low levels of CBD.
CBD is extracted from hemp or marijuana plants. However, the hemp plant has extremely low amounts of THC (< 0.3%) and high amounts of CBD. CBD is not psychoactive, so it doesn’t produce the same side effects as THC. You may have heard about the increasing use of CBD oils and treats as an all-natural remedy for dogs’ certain ailments.
How Does Marijuana Affect Dogs?
What happens if a dog eats weed or inhales secondhand smoke? Here are some of the signs you should look out for if your dog’s exposed to weed, even in small doses.
- Dilated pupils or glassed over eyes
- Loss of balance
- Breathing problems
- Whining or crying
- Excessive drooling
- Blood pressure changes (increase or decrease)
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Urinary incontinence
- Body temperature is too high or low
Size plays a significant role in how weed affects dogs. If two dogs—one 75 pounds and the other 3 pounds—get into the same size stash, the smaller dog will have a worse reaction than the larger dog. Their bodies metabolize it differently.
Some dogs also become more “paranoid” after getting high; this is often shown by them panting and pacing. It’s a challenge because you can’t determine which dogs will have this reaction until they’re high.
If you take your pup to your vet’s office immediately after your dog eats weed or edibles, they may induce vomiting or pump your dog’s stomach to prevent further absorption. However, in many toxicity cases, this may not prove helpful because too much time has elapsed, and much of the toxin has already been absorbed by your dog’s body.
In many cases, veterinarians may give pets activated charcoal (a liquid that your pet drinks)every six to eight hours to help neutralize the toxin in the stomach and intestines and prevent further absorption. Some vets may also use an enema to get your dog to poop, thus reducing toxin absorption in the GI tract.
Supportive care is also important to help your pup while he’s experiencing symptoms. Your vet will administer medications to bring your dog’s temperature and heart rate back to normal. If your dog has been vomiting, they may also administer anti-vomiting medications.
Intravenous fluids may be given to help keep your dog hydrated, get their blood pressure back to normal, and ensure that their organs are functioning properly. Your vet will closely monitor your dog to make sure that he is stable. They can also help keep your dog safe if he’s having mobility issues.
Although research studies on marijuana and dogs haven’t reported benefits, this is not the case with CBD oil research and dogs. While there have only been a handful published to date, results are promising.
Since 2016, Dr. Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist and assistant professor at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has conducted two clinical studies on CBD in dogs. In one of the studies, she found that CBD markedly reduced the seizure frequency in dogs with epilepsy, but this reduction was also observed in the study’s dogs that received the placebo (no CBD).