March 20, 2019

First 2 Hours: My Pet Ate an Edible

Marijuana use is on the rise across the country, particularly in states that have recently made recreational cannabis, THC products, and marijuana edibles completely legal. If you or someone you live with keeps edibles around, you should know what to pay attention to in case your pet finds the stash. Here's what to do immediately after your pet eats an edible.

0 - 30 Minutes In: Assess the Situation

Understanding exactly what your pet ate is a critical first step in understanding how serious the situation might become. In addition to the worrying physiological effects of THC itself, the additives and even the wrapping on edibles can be cause for concern. In particular, products containing artificial sweetener xylitol can be very harmful to pets, as can products made with chocolate or any number of spices. It's the wrapping of many edible products that can really cause trouble. Cellophane or foil wrapping can become lodged in your pet's intestinal tract, leading to blockage and even necessitating surgery. If the wrapping and/or ingredients in an edible aren't anything to panic over, it's important to consider the chemical composition of the psychoactive ingredients. Edibles generally contain THC, which is the psychoactive component in cannabis that produces a "high." If your pet has eaten a product known to contain THC, contact your veterinarian immediately. Some edibles only or primarily contain CBD, which isn't necessarily known to be harmful to pets. If you're not sure what the edible contained, call your vet and watch for the signs of THC toxicity, which generally take about 60-90 minutes to develop.

30 Minutes – 1 Hour In: Monitor for Toxicity

Even if your pet ate an edible that did contain THC, the amount may have been small enough not to produce any effects, depending on the size of your pet. Two gummy edibles are going to affect a cat much more strongly than they would a St. Bernard. That said, there are a few tell-tale signs of marijuana toxicity you need to watch out for in the minutes after your pet consumes the edible(s):

  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drooling
  • Low blood pressure
  • Disorientation

The most concerning symptom is vomiting because of the potential for aspiration. If your pet becomes disoriented or has difficulty repositioning his body, he's more likely to aspirate his own vomit and choke. Vomiting after eating an edible means you should take your pet to the closest emergency clinic immediately. If your pet shows any of the other symptoms, call your vet and ask whether or not to bring your pet in. If it's after hours, use your best judgment on whether or not to head to the ER, but always err on the side of caution.

1 Hour – 2 Hours In: Take the Vet's Advice

If your pet is showing any signs of toxicity, you should have by now already contacted your normal veterinarian (or the closest emergency clinic if your vet isn't available.) Follow their advice on how to keep your pet comfortable...and when you should bring your pet in. Remember that even if it seems like your pet isn't in physical distress, he's probably really uncomfortable if THC has reached his system. Being confused or disoriented can be really upsetting for a pet, especially if he doesn't understand why. The best thing you can do is try to keep your pet calm. Soothe him with rubs and plenty of attention, and be sure to keep an eye on him for any late-emerging symptoms. Your best bet for avoiding edible ingestion? Keep your edibles completely out of reach of your pet. Don't leave them in cabinets or drawers that are accessible, and definitely don't store them near the other food in your home.

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