Marijuana Intoxication occurs when a dog eats a stash of Cannabis sativa or hemp. The psychoactive ingredient is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a toxin that causes symptoms and is quickly absorbed in the body’s fat deposits. THC acts as a receptor in the brain and can trigger the central nervous system effects of cannabinoids, the group of substances structurally related to THC. Cannaboids can react with different neurotransmitters and neuromodulators and stimulate dopamine release. In cases of Marijuana Intoxication, dogs account for 96% and cats only 3% of cases. The effects of ingesting Cannabis can last for days.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Approximately 30 to 90 minutes after ingestion, canines will show signs for up to 72 hours. Symptoms of Marijuana Toxicosis include mydriasis (excessive dilation of pupil), glazed eyes, bradycardia (slow heart rate), hyperesthesia (abnormal increase in sensitivity to stimuli of the senses), ataxia (gross incoordination of muscle movements), coma, drooling, tremors, depression, drop in body temperature, respiratory depression and somnolence (drowsiness). Marijuana Intoxication can depress the nervous system and bring regurgitation and vomiting. Other signs may include agitation, vocalization, urinary incontinence, diarrhea, hypersalivation, seizures, tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and coma. In some cases, death can occur.
Toxicity research in canines reports that oral doses of delta 9-THC and delta 8-THC ranging from 3000 to 9000 mg/kg are not lethal.
During diagnosis veterinarians face the difficulty of detailing an accurate history if the pet’s environment involves illegal drugs. Urine testing can help make diagnosis of Marijuana Intoxication.
Treatment of Marijuana Intoxication may include induced vomiting, gastric lavage and activated charcoal. Treatment involves reducing absorption of the toxin. Different signs can determine different medications. If less than thirty minutes passed after eating the stash, an asymptomatic pet can undergo induced vomiting to remove toxins. However, THC has strong antiemetic effects that would make induced vomiting difficult. If the dog is extremely sedated, a risk of inhaling the vomit could cause secondary aspiration pneumonia during prolonged reclining. This risk is both serious and deadly.
Gastric lavage can flush out the stomach contents. Activated charcoal that treats poisoning can reduce the signs’ severity and duration. The dog receives the charcoal as a liquid orally every eight hours for the first twenty-four hours. The charcoal absorbs the toxins and passes through elimination.
Symptomatic and supportive therapy includes administering intravenous fluid with lactated Ringer’s or saline solution, keeping the pet warm and alternating the body position every four hours. More intense observation and support is required for pets that lost consciousness.
For follow-up, monitoring cardiac and respiratory function and body temperature should occur. Pet owners need to give their pet a safe environment that is free from such toxic substances that are within reach. Owners should prevent further injury to the pet or injury to others while the pet suffers from disorientation. Marijuana Intoxication has a fair prognosis. Most pets recover in one to three days. A small risk of fatality is possible.