Marijuana edibles are currently extremely popular as legalization, availability, and demand have pushed them to outperform all other areas of the cannabis industry. Interestingly, one of the unforeseen consequences of this boom has been an increase in dogs ingesting these “space snacks” when their owners irresponsibly don’t keep the edibles secure from their pets.
If your dog consumes marijuana-infused edibles, you must first determine the THC/CBD content as well as any possible presence of harmful substances like xylitol and chocolate. If the edible only has CBD and no toxins, there is no need to worry. If it contains THC or toxins, you must consult a vet and follow their recommended course of action.
It’s easy to start panicking if you find your pooch wolfing down your stash of special gummies. What do you do? Do you rush to the vet and potentially endure judgment for animal neglect? Or do you sit your dog down in front of That 70’s Show re-runs and wait to see if they laugh?
So what happens when a dog eats an edible? Let’s take a look.
What is an Edible?
Before we look at their effects on a dog, let’s start by exploring what we mean by “edible”.
The marijuana plant has two active ingredients: cannabidiol (or “CBD”) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Edibles can be infused with varying degrees of both. Edibles range from cookies to brownies, chocolate bars, popcorn, gummy bears, licorice, and more. Basically any edible food can be infused with CBD and/or THC.
Edibles With CBD
CBD has non-psychoactive effects when ingested. Its primary effects include pain relief and relaxation, as well as a boost in appetite. These attributes are among the reason it appeals to people who suffer from arthritis, seizures, and anxiety.
An ever-increasing number of cancer patients are turning to CBD as a holistic supplement to traditional treatment. Chemotherapy, in particular, is infamous for its appetite suppression. CBD has been found to be an effective counter to this issue.
Edibles With THC
THC, on the other hand, is the “fun” ingredient. This compound is what triggers the psychoactive effect or “high” when ingested. This can include feelings of drowsiness, deep thought, calmness, and paranoia. It also produces the classic “stoner eyes” and dry mouth, physical indications of the “high”. Effects vary from person to person.
How These Chemicals Work
Both of these chemicals, known as “cannabinoids”, attach to specific endocannabinoid receptors that we humans just so happen to have in our brains. They are, without a doubt, two of the most exciting chemical compounds of our time, and the signs indicate we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of their potential.
Now, even more interestingly, man’s best friend just so happens to share the same receptors, which indicates that dogs may experience — more or less — the same effects. Obviously, we are unable to ask our dogs for definitive answers. (Actually, we can ask, but they can’t give us answers.)
However, we do know enough to answer the original question.
How Marijuana Edibles Affect a Dog
The effects of marijuana edibles on a dog’s system depend on a variety of factors.
One of the leading factors is the THC/CBD content of the edible.
Effects on Dogs from Edibles With No THC
If a dog consumes a CBD edible with no THC, then there will be no discernible effects. Research has found that CBD performs a similar function in animals as it does in humans. In such a scenario, the dog will not get high or change behavior. You might notice a slight increase in appetite though.
Effects on Dogs from Edibles With THC
On the other hand, edibles with THC content may produce effects that are clear to see.
The aforementioned effects may be observed after a while. You may also notice impairment of motor skills and balance. Dogs may struggle to walk straight or even lean against walls as if they’re dizzy. The eyes might also look “distant” as just awoken from a long nap. In some cases, dogs might start seeming more alert and attentive to their surroundings — a form of paranoia.
Paranoia, in particular, can lead to some worrying behaviors in dogs. The fear may drive some dogs to growl aggressively or even bite without provocation.
Factors that Influence the Effects of Edibles on Dogs
Much like with people, the effects of THC may vary from one individual dog to another. However, most effects can be influenced by several variables including:
- THC concentration in the edibles
- Number of edibles consumed
- Size and weight of the dog
- Dog’s predisposition to THC effects
Naturally, the greater the THC content, the more pronounced the effects. The same can be said for size, with smaller dogs getting much higher (much more quickly) than bigger breeds. There is also your dog’s system. Two dogs of the same size and breed might eat the same edible with wildly differing outcomes.
Dogs are predisposed to experiencing stronger THC effects than humans. Additionally, they have an extremely low tolerance to the chemical since they are never exposed to it…unless leaving edibles lying around is a regular occurrence.
Other Substances in Edibles to Be Concerned About
Of course, THC isn’t the only thing to worry about when it comes to edibles. Some space snacks or “dabs” contain other ingredients that may be harmful to dogs. Chocolate and xylitol are notoriously toxic to dogs, so much so that ingestion might be fatal. There are a number of human foods that are toxic to dogs and may be an ingredient in a particularly edible.
What To Do if Your Dog Eats an Edible
So, what do you do if your dog chows down on weed edibles?
If the edibles contained CBD only, there’s no need to worry. The dog will not be affected in any serious way.
However, if the dog eats edibles with THC, you must contact your vet and give them all the relevant information (potency of the edible, how much the dog ate, when the edible was eaten, etc.). The vet will inform you to either let the dog ride it out or induce vomiting.
The dog can ride out the high at home or the vet’s office, depending on what you’re comfortable with. We recommend taking your dog to the vet’s office just to be on the safe side. Dogs can be monitored with medical equipment and receive professional health care.
Make Sure the Dog’s Environment is Safe
If you decide to keep the dog at home, you will have to continually monitor it. We also recommend closing the dog off in a safe room without sharp edges, corners, and other hazards. You should also provide food and lots of water. Keep the dog company to help ease paranoia and anxiety. You should also consider a muzzle or a leash in case the dog gets aggressive.
If the Dog Has Ingested a Substance Other Than THC
In cases where the edible may contain harmful substances, you will likely have to induce vomiting. This is usually done using diluted hydrogen peroxide. If your vet is unable to do it themselves, they can guide you on how to mix the substance correctly based on your dog’s size, weight, and age. Never use this chemical to induce vomiting without speaking to a vet or animal poison control center because this could lead to even more damage.
In general, vets usually prefer to induce vomiting themselves where they are able to examine the dog first and then be available to respond to any issues that arise in the process. There are definitely risks to inducing vomiting, particularly when done by dog owners and not veterinarians.
Unfortunately, once THC hits the dog’s bloodstream, there’s nothing you can do besides wait. The dog will eventually sleep it off.
How Long Does an Edible Last in a Dog’s System
The effects of an edible can last anywhere between 12-24 hours. In the case of THC-infused edibles, your dog may be groggy and lethargic for the better part of a day. This time largely depends on the dog’s size, age, and quantity of edibles consumed. Smaller dogs tend to stay high for longer than big dogs.
Any lingering effects after 24 hours may be a result of poisoning by other harmful ingredients. In such cases, we highly recommend rushing the dog to the vet.
Of course, preventing your dog from having access to edibles is the best way to keep them safe. But if your dog does eat an edible (or you suspect that they have), your best course is to call your vet with as much information as possible ready to share.
Remember, unlike you, your dog has no idea what they are getting into when they eat an edible. It’s incredibly unfair to them, and you are ultimately responsible for their wellbeing. Just because you may enjoy the effects of edibles does not mean they will, and it is incumbent upon you to protect them from this uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.