A client brought in a 5 month old female bulldog for possible seizure-like activity and not acting right. On presentation she was tremoring, lethargic, and dribbling urine. Later we noticed her overreact to small stimuli, like touching the top of her head. We suspected THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) toxicity. The owner could not confirm our suspicions at the time, but she called the next day to tell us that there was indeed marijuana in the house that she was unaware of and her puppy had fully recovered by that morning.
THC toxicity has become more common in our pets, mostly dogs, since the increase of medicinal marijuana users and we believe that it will continue to be a problem with its legalization. ACCES saw over 100 cases of THC toxicity last year, twice as many as the year before and over 4 times more cases than 2010. The same has been seen in Colorado and Oregon. It’s likely that the increase in exposure is also connected with the popularity of edibles, butters, and oils. Some oils can be almost 50% THC. Dogs are already known to ingest things they shouldn’t and now those cookies may have a whole new risk to them.
Signs of THC toxicity are tremors, depression, walking off balance, over reaction to stimuli, and urinary incontinence (specific to dogs). If you believe your pet may have ingested marijuana, please contact a vet immediately. Remember to be honest with your vet. Signs of THC toxicity can mirror other, more serious issues, and additional tests would be considered to rule those out. Death from THC toxicity is rare, but supportive care until your pet is stable is highly recommended. If it is safe to do so, your veterinarian will induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal that will decrease the patient’s absorption of THC. Maintaining hydration with IV fluids and giving an anti-nausea medication will help your pet through the symptoms. Symptoms may last up to 72 hours, but are mostly gone within 24.
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