What you should do when a pet accidentally ingests cannabis

Published Oct 31, 2019 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Jaroslav Frank

Most responsible cannabis consumers know that keeping their stash out of reach, from both children and pets is of the utmost importance, but unfortunately, accidents happen. No matter how careful you may be, there is always a chance of something being dropped or left behind, and that is especially true for those who use marijuana products indoors.  All that we can do is try our best to avoid this situation, but if it does happen, it’s important to know exactly how to react in the moments following accidental ingestion of activated cannabis goods.

No effects without decarboxylation

The first essential cannabis fact that some of the most experienced consumers don’t even know, is that, in order to get high from eating weed, the bud flowers or product must undergo a process called decarboxylation. That is where a substantial amount of heat is applied to activate the cannabinoids into a form that provides a long list of benefits that cannabis is known to provide for humans. Until the buds are cooked, they will not produce the psychoactive high or any other adverse effects, so if your cat or dog accidentally eats a bud or leaf, you probably don’t have too much to worry about.

CBD vs THC

There are two primary cannabinoids that are most widely known in cannabis, and they are THC and CBD. Most marijuana-infused goods are labelled with these elements by quantity because they each produce a very different type of effect. Cannabidiol (CBD) products like oils, herbs or edibles are highly recommended for pets. In the complete absence of THC, CBD oils can be an excellent addition to your furry friend’s diet, so if it’s CBD edibles that are accidentally ingested, there is no reason to worry beyond a possible stomach sensitivity to the base oil.

THC is the culprit that can cause some intense adverse effects, and this most often happens when a pet accidentally eats THC edibles. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the cannabis compound that produces the euphoric and mind-altering effects in humans, and since edibles are often highly concentrated, it doesn’t take much to risk your pet’s health and, in some cases, even their life. Though it is rare, there are a few incidents on records of a family pet succumbing to the side effects of ingesting THC edibles. That is the reason why it is so important to learn the signs and symptoms to look for, that might result from accidental ingestion.

Signs and symptoms of accidental THC ingestion in pets

Unfortunately, there is currently no way to test your pet at home for THC, and since early intervention is key to avoiding possible long-term consequences, it is essential that every cannabis consuming pet owner is aware of what symptoms to watch out for:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficult to wake
  • Impaired motor functioning
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Disorientation
  • Abnormal eye movement
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Drooling
  • Seizures
  • Changes to appetite

What to do if you’re pet ingests activated cannabis products

There is nothing more terrifying than realizing that your beloved pet is at risk, but if you suspect that an animal has ingested edibles or some other activated marijuana product, it is important to stay calm and to follow these steps:

  1. Assess the timeframe that you suspect the cannabis product was eaten. If it is a small window, and it’s been less than 20 minutes since the incident, then you can induce vomiting to forcefully expel the potent goods. To do this, you should give your pet one teaspoon of a low 3% hydrogen peroxide for every 10 pounds of body weight. Within 10-20 minutes, they should begin to vomit and expel anything that was eaten recently.

  2. If you are able to successfully induce vomiting and know that you were able to act quickly, then a vet visit might not be necessary, but it is still highly recommended to see a full physical assessment from a profession to be sure that your pet is no longer at risk.

  3. For those who are either unable to induce vomiting or you believe that it’s been longer than 20 minutes since the pet ate the marijuana product, then it is essential that you seek immediate emergency assistance from a veterinarian. Most vets are equipped with stronger medicines that can induce vomiting, and if it’s been too long for them to be effective, then round the clock professional supervision is necessary until the effects have a chance to wear off.

How long do edibles last?

If you are unable to get your furry friend to the vet, then it is important that you stay by their side until the effects wear off. From the moment that edibles and other activated marijuana products are eaten, the effects can last up to 12 hours. Once you make it past that timeframe, it’s relatively safe to say that your pet is probably out of the woods, but a good solid meal, plenty of water and rest will be essential for a speedy recovery.

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