dog eating cannabis leaf
Pets overdosing on cannabis? It happens.

It’s an all too common scenario: You’ve just arrived home after visiting the dispensary. Maybe you leave a new edible, fresh from the shop, out on the table for just a few moments too long.

Maybe a few cannabis nugs tumble onto the carpet, and your puppy just can’t resist chomping down.

No matter how it happens, when a pet accidentally ingests cannabis, there are some very important things to know, and steps to take for your pet’s health.

Types of Commonly Ingested Cannabis Products

different types of cannabis products
Some cannabis products will affect pets more than others.

How toxic the cannabis will end up being for your pet is highly dependent on which product it was, and how strong the dosage was, as well as the size of your pet.

Additionally, edibles may contain ingredients that can increase the danger for your pet.

“Chocolate, macadamia nuts, and raisins are all toxic to dogs,” says Dr. Robert J. Silver, one of the nation's top holistic veterinarians.

Silver and his colleague Dr. Gary Richter, worked with Green Flower to design the complete Cannabis for Pets video series.

Here are a few commonly ingested cannabis products, ranked from least toxic to most toxic:

  • Raw cannabis: This is least toxic, as it has not been decarboxylated and is the least potent
  • Decarboxylated cannabis: Flower that has been heated usually contains higher levels of THC
  • Edibles: Depending on the dosage, this may be more or less toxic, but this is also dependent on the ingredients, which may increase toxicity
  • Cannabutter: Especially if it’s homemade, the potency may be difficult to determine and this is one of the more severe scenarios
  • Concentrates: These are easily some of the most dangerous products for your pet to ingest, as they contain the highest levels of THC and ingesting even a tiny amount may lead to severe consequences.

Next Steps

There are certain situations in which you will want to go straight to the veterinarian. If your pet weighs 10 pounds or less and ate a large quantity of a strong edible, then yes, it is advisable to go straight to the vet.

However, in most cases, you’ll want to monitor your pet for symptoms of an overdose of THC:

  • Standing with hind legs widely apart
  • Wobbling, swaying back and forth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Body tremors
  • Lethargy
  • May fall over when trying to walk
  • Loss of urinary continence
  • Low blood pressure

“Overdosed pets will display something called ‘static ataxia.’” Veterinarian Dr. Gary Richter explains in the masterclass. “These pets will appear sleepy or spaced out, almost appear to fall asleep on their feet and then snap back awake and right themselves.”

“Depending on the amount of cannabis ingested, static ataxia can last for hours to more than a day. In extreme cases, pets will need to be hospitalized and provided supportive therapy in order to keep them hydrated and maintain their blood pressure.

Static ataxia is a reaction most often seen in dogs, Dr. Silver explains, “due to their unique anatomy, having such a high density of THC receptors in their hindbrain.”

Treatment for a THC Overdose

treatment of cannabis overdose
If you suspect your four-legged friend is having a THC overdose, better take them to the vet.

If you’re concerned, going to the vet is always a smart move.

However, if you’re not sure, there are a few at-home remedies to help soothe your pet after an accident involving cannabis.

Charcoal is an excellent way to absorb toxins and THC from your pet’s stomach, and you can find activated charcoal available at most drug stores.

Hydrogen peroxide is another alternative. By feeding your pet one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide per 10 pounds of weight, you’ll be able to induce vomiting. This ensures that any THC left in their stomach will not be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Visiting a vet may also be a necessary step, especially if you have a smaller pet.

Above all, when visiting the vet, be honest about your pet ingesting cannabis.

Veterinarians only have the safety and well-being of your pet in mind, and they are not concerned with whether or not cannabis is legal in your state.

Withholding information may lead to unnecessary delays, which could be detrimental to your pet’s health.

“While almost never fatal,” Dr. Richter says, “cannabis toxicity is never a good time for the animal and can turn into a very expensive proposition for pet owners.”

When is it Safe For Pets to Use Cannabis?

cannabis safe for pets
Check out the Cannabis for Pets video series for guidance on animals and medicinal cannabis.

Increasingly, there are more and more reports about animals experiencing the medicinal benefits from using certain forms of cannabis.

As Dr. Richter explains, a key point to cannabis – same as any other medicine – is dosing.

“Knowing the THC content is crucial to prevent an unwanted and potentially serious cannabis toxicity,” Dr. Richter tells Green Flower.

“Given how potent these cannabis products can be, Dr. Silver and I recommend only using these products under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.”

In fact, Dr. Silver goes as far as to recommend hemp CBD products for pets, due to the legality in the United States, as well as the fact that hemp contains much lower amounts of THC, reducing the likelihood of toxicity.

There are many reasons a pet may benefit from a medicinal hemp or cannabis regimen:

  • Pain relief
  • Help with sleep
  • Anxiety relief
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Reduce convulsions and seizures
  • Reduce vomiting
  • Help with loud noise phobias
  • Reduce muscle spasms

If you think that a cannabis regimen may help your pet, consult a veterinarian to find the best product that fits your pet’s needs and to ensure proper dosage.

Best Practices to Keep Your Pet Safe

dog wearing helmet
Animal THC overdoses are entirely preventable.

If you’re looking to prevent an accidental THC overdose, make sure that your cannabis and especially high-risk cannabis products (such as infused chocolate edibles) are kept out of sniffing level. Here are a few tips to make sure your pet and your stash stay safe:

  • Keep a lockbox: this is also a good practice if you’re looking to keep your cannabis discreetly out of sight and out of the hands of any children in the household
  • Avoid smoking around your pets: smoke inhalation can affect pets more strongly than humans and can result in THC toxicity in extreme cases
  • Put your cannabis away immediately: as soon as you return from a visit to the dispensary or retail shop, put your cannabis away in a secure location
  • Keep your cannabis in a pawproof container: containers that you can’t open without opposable thumbs
  • Designate a room for cannabis: create a space in your home for cannabis use and make sure the pets are kept out

Learn more about medical cannabis for pets!

Dr. Silver and Dr. Richter cover everything you need to know in this comprehensive series: Cannabis for Pets.

Cannabis for Pets