If the Dog Breaks Into Your Stash, Your Best Bet is to be Honest

 |  Oct 2nd 2009  |   1 Contribution


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Like most vets who practice in northern California, I treat stoned dogs on a regular basis.

Dogs most often suffer marijuana toxicity after consuming cookies or brownies made with marijuana. However, some dogs consume baggies of the dried plant or even entire plants growing in the ground.


The term marijuana toxicity somewhat overstates the effect of the drug on dogs (and, rarely, cats). Death from exposure to marijuana is almost unheard of.

However, pets that are exposed to marijuana commonly experience non-life-threatening adverse reactions. In short, they are prone to bad trips. Although I doubt stoned pets worry that their friends secretly make fun of them or that the police can read their minds, stoned pets frequently suffer from extreme agitation, disorientation, and an inability to walk. They may urinate or defecate on themselves. Conversely, they may refuse or be unable to void their bladder or bowels. They may suffer from severe tremors that can resemble seizures. And, they frequently vomit (which places them at risk of inhaling stomach matter--a dangerous situation).

Pets that have been exposed to marijuana should see a vet. And that is where the fun begins for me.

There are two types of people who bring stoned dogs to me: those who are forthright about what has happened, and those who deny it.

When a client tells me that his pet is suffering from marijuana intoxication, I generally am able to address the matter with ease. I usually recommend hospitalization for observation. Fluids and sedatives and may be administered. If the pet ingested marijuana recently, I may induce vomiting to remove the remaining drug from its stomach. Then, the clients and I joke about how we'll put the dog in a cozy cage with a lava lamp and play Dark Side of the Moon until the effects of the drug wear off.

However, many owners of stoned dogs deny that their dog has had access to marijuana. In some cases, they did not know that their teenage child had pot in the house. In others, they worry (wrongly) that my staff will contact the police if they confess to possession of an illegal substance.

Whatever the reason, when this happens, it makes the dog's visit much more intense and costly. Marijuana toxicity can clinically resemble many other more serious problems. Ingestion of snail bait, pesticides, and many household chemicals can lead to symptoms that are initially indistinguishable from the ingestion of marijuana. These toxins are much more deadly, so I must perform significant testing and aggressive medical management to address the worst case scenario.

The moral of the story is simple. If you know that your pet is suffering from marijuana ingestion, your best bet generally is to tell the vet what's happening.

If you are not comfortable discussing what has happened with your vet, try the following line. I have heard it dozens of times. Say, "I think my roommate may have some marijuana in the house, and the dog might have gotten into it."

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