What to do if you suspect your pet has consumed cannabis

Published Mar 7, 2023 02:00 p.m. ET
Unsplash / Krista Mangulsone

We have a whole guide that’s dedicated to ensuring cannabis enthusiasts can share their love for the plant and its elements safely with their pets, but with so many cases of accidental consumption lately, we felt the need to address the crisis with some helpful information that may assist common household pet owners if they end up in the unfortunate situation where they’re worried about what to do next after discovering that cannabis may have been ingested by their furry, feathery, or scaly companions.

When you suspect a pet has been exposed to cannabis

What should you do when that batch of brownies you made earlier and left on the counter seems a little lighter than it was when you’d last checked, or an entire pack of gummies disappears and the main suspect is fido, your loving friend? That is a question far too many pet owners have pondered, but now is not the time to panic.

Instead, follow these simple steps to determine whether or not they did in fact ingest activated cannabis, and how to proceed based on your assessment and conclusions.

What to look for signs/symptoms

The first thing pet parents need to be on the lookout for is any one or more of these symptoms, which are all good indicators of accidental cannabis consumption.

  • Sedation
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Disorientation
  • Low heart rate
  • Difficulty standing or walking
  • Vomiting
  • Stumbling
  • Crossing feet
  • Drooling
  • Exaggerated response to stimuli
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Dilated pupils
  • Body tremors

Even if your pet displays only one or two of the above symptoms, it’s safest to assume they may have ingested cannabis.

How to proceed

If you’ve spotted any of the above symptoms, then it’s time to seek assistance. Some pet owners may prefer to head straight to the vet, while others might choose to call their local Pet Poison Control line, where highly skilled and knowledgeable staff may be able to help provide an unbiased assessment before determining whether or not a trip to the veterinarian is warranted.


Is it safe to wait it out?

You might be thinking the symptoms your pet is displaying don’t seem immediately dangerous, and that is especially true when your furry friend doesn’t seem too uncomfortable in his or her current state, but it’s best not to wait, as the results you’re seeing now may worsen in time, and by then it could be too late. Most pets will naturally recover without medical assistance. Still, those rare situations where they’ve taken too much or end up experiencing an allergic reaction could be fatal, so it’s simply not worth the risk to wait it out.

How much will a vet visit cost for this?

Unfortunately, veterinary care is an expense that not everyone is ready to manage, so knowing the cost of a visit can help to alleviate any fears, but it is really hard to accurately predict what this kind of incident may end up costing because it’s impossible to tell what your vet might have to do to provide an effective treatment plan. Many pet owners are fortunate to only be billed for the basic cost of a visit coupled with hydration via IV, which may range drastically from a mere $50 all the way up to $1000, while in cases where vomiting must be induced or other medications must be dispensed could significantly increase the cost of treatment.

If you are unable to cover the cost of veterinary care it is still important not to ignore these signs and symptoms, so we recommend looking into financial assistance programs, in-house payment plans, or borrowing the funds from friends and family members. At the end of the day, if none of the above options are possible then it may be in your pet's best interest to consider surrendering them to a local agency that will get them the help they truly need to make it through this.

In conclusion

The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is completely accurate here. Keeping your cannabis products out of reach from unsuspecting pets is the only way to ensure you’re not stuck in the unfortunate situation of worrying and bearing the cost of treatment. This is why we always recommend storing all cannabis products in a locked container and placing it high enough out of reach that pets and children are unable to gain access.

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