Dogs and Marijuana : Is it harmful?


Published: 09/17/2013

by Comfortably Numb


Although marijuana smokers  getting their dogs stoned is nothing new, in a time when marijuana is becoming more acceptable, there needs to be a new awareness as to how marijuana actually affects our canine friends.

It has been proven that marijuana can sometimes help sick dogs, as it does humans.  Marijuana in modification can increase a dog's appetite, help nausea, and give terminal dogs a more peaceful life, and there are lots of stories of people who have dogs that love it and it helps them with their dogs with aches and pains.  However, too much marijuana can do more harm than help a dog and there are several studies currently going on concerning the benefits versus the health issues of marijuana for dogs.

As a responsible dog owner and marijuana enthusiast, consider the following:

It is a scientific fact that dogs do not have the capacity to handle marijuana like humans, and care must be taken in their exposure to marijuana.  It has also been scientifically proven that dogs have sensitive lungs which could be damaged by the direct smoke, and a dog's respiratory function could be compromised.   If you feel Fido needs a toke, it is best to blow the smoke into the dog’s ear while cupping the dogs ear with your hand, instead of blowing it in his face.  It is also best to be in a well-ventilated area when you are smoking around your dog so that they get minimal second hand smoke.

Digesting marijuana is more toxic to dogs than secondhand smoke.  One of the real problems of dogs being exposed to marijuana is marijuana intoxication.  Dogs could suffer from marijuana intoxication if they eat marijuana plants, dried portions of the plant (say joints or roaches), or food made with marijuana.   The signs of marijuana toxicity are red eyes, poor motor function, an irregular heart beat and/or poor temperature regulation.   Veterinarians say if your dog eats marijuana it's important to get them into a veterinary hospital right away as there is a two-hour window for when the stomach can be cleared to avoid further side effects.

It has been recently reported, but not surprising, that veterinarians in states currently with medical marijuana legal are seeing a spike in dogs being brought in from the results of exposure to marijuana.

When asked, Dr. Jenna Ashton, who is a veterinarian in Englewood, Colorado stated “We don’t know that fine line yet about how much to give our pets for therapeutic benefits versus toxicity.”  Dr. Ashton also noted that over the past few years, since medical marijuana was legalized, the number of emergency room visits by dogs overdosing on marijuana has “probably doubled or tripled.” 

This is also confirmed by a study coordinated by Dr. Stacy Meola, a veterinarian in Wheat Ridge, Colorado who says that because dogs are ingesting food with high amounts of butter and oil, they are naturally more susceptible to vomiting. When those products have marijuana in them, the dog becomes sleepy and sometimes in a comatose-like state. If they vomit, it's likely they can choke in this state. 

Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald with a veterinarian in Aurora, Colorado says he has been seeing an increase in cases of marijuana intoxication in dogs.   "They may be stumbling," Fitzgerald said. "They're wobbly, they might not eat.  [They are] sleepy.  In a state where marijuana is much more available, we see higher incidents of marijuana intoxication.  We have seen as the number of medical marijuana licenses increased over the years, we saw those numbers of dogs eating the marijuana increased.  They seemed to be correlated."

Currently there are no documented deaths of dogs from marijuana intoxication, nor has it been proven that the use of marijuana with dogs creates any long-term effects.  These new studies may prove otherwise.

In order to have a happy and healthy dog, marijuana used  in moderation and responsibly, can bring a pleasant experience to both dogs and their owners.