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Marijuana Toxicosis

Statistics:

  • In 2017 the ASPCA poison control center received 1486 calls regarding products containing THC and CBD.
  • 97% were THC or THC/CBD combination products
  • Only 2% of those products were marketed for pets
  • Some were overdoses (eating bags of treats, etc.), and some were at labeled therapeutic dose
  • In Colorado a correlation was seen between the number of medical marijuana licenses issued and marijuana toxicosis in dogs.
  • In 2018 the ASPCA received 1,800 calls – a 21% increase over 2017

Take-away – Cannabis products labeled for humans are increasingly being ingested by animals (either accidentally as pets are eating products they shouldn’t have access to, and/or intentionally, as pet owners attempt to self-medicate their pets.

Fact:

THC containing cannabis products pose an increasing concern for marijuana toxicosis in animals as products are becoming more and more potent. This is a real and genuine concern that marijuana toxicosis cases are going to continue to rise.

Diagnosis:

Marijuana Toxicosis is diagnosed by history (exposure to edibles) and clinical signs. Though human urine tests are available they have not been validated in animals. And, while positive tests are diagnostic, false negatives make testing unreliable. Obtaining an accurate history, suspicion of marijuana ingestion and clinical signs, are the keys to diagnosis.

Though the ASPCA has reported pets ingesting CBD products develop the same clinical signs as those that are exposed to THC products, this is solely due to THC intoxication from products containing CBD plus THC. To date, no literature reports exist from overdosing on the cannabinoid CBD, nor do reports exist of CBD demonstrating any psychoactive properties. Marijuana toxicosis is due to ingestion of THC, the only psychoactive cannabinoid found within cannabis.

Following is a list of various clinical signs associated with Marijuana Toxicosis:

Mild

  • Lethargy
  • Altered response to stimuli 
  • Injected conjunctiva 
  • Atypical behavior 

Severe

  • Ataxia, Hypothermia, Bradycardia
  • Ptyalism, Emesis, Anorexia
  • Incontinence, Diarrhea, Dysphoria
  • Coma, Death

Treatment:

Treatment of Marijuana Toxicosis is symptomatic and based upon clinical signs. It is recommended you contact your consulting veterinarian for treatment advise as soon as possible. Emesis can be performed if within 2 hours of ingestion and there are no CNS signs. Possible supportive care options may include activated charcoal administration, fluid therapy, atropine for bradycardia, diazepam for hyperexcitability, antiemetics for vomiting, metoclopramide to increase gastric emptying, vigilant monitoring, and warming to counteract hypothermia.