Dogs and THC: Is weed for dogs bad?

Key Takeaway: Weed is bad for dogs because of its associated severe side effects and potential lethality. Its possible side effects include aggression, CNS depression, coma, seizures, tremors, and respiratory depression. There are some circumstances where the benefits of THC can outweigh the potential risks, such as end-of-life care. CBD is a safer alternative with comparatively little risk.

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Would you give your infant THC to keep them quiet? Of course not. Then you might want to think twice before providing weed to your dog.

This blog explores the benefits, side effects, toxicity, and lethality of CBD and THC, the main two compounds in weed for dogs.

IS WEED BAD FOR DOGS?

Weed is generally bad for dogs in the sense that it can cause severe side effects and even death. However, there are a few medical situations where the benefits might outweigh the risks.

THC has an intoxicating effect on dogs, the same as it has on humans. However, dogs cannot understand the experience, so they are more likely to become distressed. They also cant consent to using drugs recreationally.

Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, and Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, wrote that dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains, making cannabis effects more extreme. Thus it only takes a small amount of THC to cause toxicity in dogs.

There may be some situations where THC products are appropriate for dogs, generally when the benefits outweigh the risks. Some examples of this might be when the only other option is a pharmaceutical drug with severe side effects, and weed for dogs can provide similar relief with lesser negative effects. This should always be under the guidance of a vet.

EFFECTS OF MARIJUANA ON DOGS

Marijuana can have some positive effects on dogs, like appetite stimulation, pain relief, and reduced vomiting. Still these can be quickly overshadowed by the negative side effects of THC, the physchoactive compound in marijuana. Even a small amount of THC can cause an array of negative side effects in dogs as they are more sensitive to cannabinoids than us.

Marijuana exposure in dogs can happen in numerous ways. For instance, weed edibles can be accidentally left out, a dog might be in a room with someone smoking marijuana, or an owner could intentionally get the dog high. Whichever scenario happens, research shows that most dogs will have adverse reactions at a surprisingly low dose of THC.

Fortunately, these side effects tend to be short-lived, but we don’t fully know the long-term impact of dogs and THC.

CBD is the other major component of the cannabis plant. Generally, vets recommend CBD products over THC products because research shows that dogs can tolerate very high dosages of CBD with minimal if any, negative side effects. It also has a long list of possible benefits which we outline in the following tables.



Mild Side Effects Table

THC Mild Side Effects CBD Mild Side Effects
Dilated Pupils Diarrhea
Disorientation Drowsiness
Hyperactivity Nausea
Excessive Drooling
Urinary Incontinence
Vomiting

Severe Side Effects Table

THC Severe Side Effects CBD Severe Side Effects
Aggression N/A
CNS Depression N/A
Coma N/A
Seizures N/A
Tremors N/A
Respiratory Depression N/A

Potential Benefits Table

THC Potential Benefits CBD Potential Benefits CBD Potential Benefits Cont.
Appetite Stimulation Anti-Depressant Offset Anxiety
Nourish Brain Cells Anti-Inflammatory/ Arthritis Pain Relief
Pain Relief Antioxidant Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Reduces Vomiting Assist in severe forms of Epilepsy Treat Insomnia

The three tables above show that THC has more mild and severe side effects than CBD. They also show that CBD for dogs has more potential benefits than THC in treating several different ailments.

In a safety-specific CHE investigation in dogs (17), CBD-only doses up to 62 mg/kg resulted in no adverse events, whereas ascending doses of THC (up to 49 mg/kg) or CBD and THC (up to 12 + 8 mg/kg, respectively) resulted in increasing and medically significant neurologic adverse effects.

IS THC TOXIC TO DOGS?

THC is toxic for dogs. The actual amount of toxicity varies between dogs of different ages, health statuses, and body sizes.

In recent years, it has been noted that medical-grade THC is stronger and may be more toxic than its predecessors. The Animal Poison Control Center wrote, the first couple of months of 2019, the number of calls related to pets ingesting marijuana skyrocketed 765% over the same period in 2018. Furthermore, Dr. Carlton Gyles found a positive link between the increased number of cases of marijuana toxicity in dogs and the increased number of medical marijuana licenses issued.

Marijuana toxicity in dogs' symptoms is visible 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion and possibly sooner if inhaled, potentially lasting up to 24 hours or more depending on the accidental dose amount.

The following table shows the one-time THC dose (0.1mg/kg) at which 50% of dogs showed excessive constriction of the eye pupil, 20% vomited, and 20% showed a loss of coordination.

Toxic Dose Table

Size of Dog (lbs) Marijuana Flower (20%THC) in grams Concentrate (Shatter, Crumble, Wax) (80% THC) in gram CBD Oil w/ (0.3% THC) in grams
1 0.23 0.06 3.44
5 1.14 0.28 17.22
10 2.27 0.57 34.44
20 4.55 1.14 38.78
50 11.36 2.84 172.18
100 22.73 5.68 344.35
150 34.09 8.52 516.53

There aren’t any studies showing the effects of THC at lower dosages, but we think it's safe to assume that if 50% of dogs are showing visible signs of intoxication at this dose, they are encountering intoxication at a much lower amount, which means that, yes, it is possible that your dog could be intoxicated after taking a reasonable dose of a full spectrum CBD product with 0.3% THC.

The AHVMA conducted a large survey of 600 pet parents using full-spectrum CBD oil for dogs. The side effects indicate that dogs can get visibly high from CBD oils containing close to 0.3% THC. More than 30% reported their dogs had dry mouth, lethargy, and increased appetite. More concerning was that 20% reported panic reactions, and more than 3% perceived an increase in seizures.

CAN WEED KILL DOGS?

It is unlikely that weed will kill a dog, but that doesn’t mean it's not possible, especially with smaller breeds. What is more likely is that your dog will have an adverse reaction at a dose that’s about ten thousand times smaller than one which will kill.

According to the Alameda East Veterinary Hospital, the minimum lethal oral dose for dogs for THC is 3 g/kg. Meaning a 30-pound dog needs to ingest 39 grams of pure THC to have a lethal dose.

Since cannabis is usually consumed through ingestion or inhalation, the lethal dose of cannabis flower for a 30-pound dog is 195 grams. That is more than a quarter-pound of material a dog would have to eat. THC percentages vary in different strains, so even more caution should be employed if you have weed containing upwards of 20% THC.

In the case of concentrates, marijuana is distilled down to a concentrated form, and the lethal dose is much lower because of the higher percentage of THC available. In this case, a product containing 80 percent THC would require 48.75 grams of concentrate to cause lethality in a 30lb dog potentially.

Lethal Dose Marijuana Table

Below is a table displaying the minimum lethal doses of marijuana in flower and concentrate form.

Size of Dog (lbs) Marijuana Flower (20%THC) in grams Concentrate (Shatter, Crumble, Wax) (80% THC) in gram
1 7 2
5 34 9
10 68 17
20 136 34
50 341 85
100 682 170
150 1023 256

The table above may be surprising to some people. Unfortunately, a one-pound dog can eat only seven grams of marijuana flower or 2 grams of marijuana concentrate and potentially have a lethal reaction.

On the other end, a 150-pound dog would need to have 1023 grams of marijuana flower or 256 grams of THC concentrate for a possible lethal dose.

These tables show the extreme caution one must take if marijuana is around a smaller breed of dog.

The most likely scenario of a dog dying is when it eats edibles containing caffeine, chocolate, garlic, grapes and raisins, onions, or Xylitol. Medicated edibles, and marijuana products in general, should be placed somewhere a dog has no chance of reaching.

Another instance of a dog dying from THC is a scenario Dr. Dorrie Black discusses. She wrote, THC can sedate a dog so fully that it will inhale its vomit, which can be fatal. In contrast, CBD oil for dogs that contains zero percent THC is not lethal to dogs. Consuming a lot of CBD may cause toxicity, but it has never killed.



WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG INGESTS THC?

Treating marijuana poisonings in dogs is based on the gravity of symptoms presented. If your dog is showing mild symptoms, then at-home treatment is an option. Mild THC side effects are dilated pupils, disorientation, hyperactivity, excessive drooling, urinary incontinence, and vomiting. If you know that your dog took a non-lethal amount of THC, make sure to keep the dog safe, comfortable, and hydrated.

In severe cases, take your dog to the Emergency Animal Clinic or the veterinarian if available. Severe THC poisonings symptoms include aggression, CNS (Central Nervous System) Depression, Coma, Seizures, Tremors, and Respiratory Depression. Treatments for severe THC poisonings include intravenous IV Fluids, medications, fluids, and possibly induced vomiting.

References

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