Don’t give your pet marijuana. Seriously. Don’t.

I’m not very happy about marijuana, legal or not.

Legalization has opened up a host of dangers for my patients, mostly the dogs. As a veterinarian, I am appalled at the people who, through carelessness or on purpose, allow it to be shared with their pets. Over the years I have cared for several dogs that were "stoned". Marijuana-laced brownies or other food items were usually the culprit, but about half the time the item was shared with the dog because their owner was high and thought their dog should be allowed to experience the same "joy". The reason I saw the dog was because even in their fog, the owners recognized something was terribly wrong and sought emergency care for their pet.

A pet affected by marijuana toxicosis will exhibit a host of neurological abnormalities. Dogs may become so agitated they appear manic, drooling, dilated pupils, constant vocalization and walk uncoordinated. Seizures, coma and death may occur. There is no ready test at present to detect marijuana levels in a dog, so we must rely on the owner’s honest history if we are to help their pet. That said, there is also no true antidote – we must watch the dog suffer the effects, which we try to minimize and flush out the drug with IV fluids, oral charcoal, sedatives and sometimes enemas. The active chemicals in marijuana are stored in body fat, broken down in the liver and exit the body in the feces. It can take 24 miserable hours or longer for your pet to recover. Some trip. I am not impressed.

Years ago, fatalities related to marijuana exposure were rare. Most pets ingested only small amounts of a natural plant, containing a relatively small amount of the primary psychotropic chemical THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). That is no longer true. You see, in developing medical-grade marijuana products they have synthesized and concentrated the most potent chemicals in marijuana. Pets that ingest these medical-grade products have a much higher risk of toxicity.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is undertaking research to see if there are any medical benefits to the non-hallucinatory, non-psychotropic chemical CBD (cannabidiol) that is also found in marijuana. Could it be part of a treatment plan for problems such as arthritis in pets or epileptic seizure control? At this time there is little scientific evidence on this subject. Legitimate research has been hampered by the fact that while many State laws have legalized restricted uses for marijuana in people, the Federal Laws have not changed. Until the safety and risks of CBD products have been studied there is little advice on the subject from veterinarians. In the meantime, PLEASE prevent exposure of your pet to any THC / marijuana products!

Christine McFadden holds a license to practice veterinary medicine and surgery. She has cared for the family pets of Merced at Valley Animal Hospital for more than 30 years. Send questions or comments to