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Updated 05 July 2019

Did you know dagga is toxic to dogs? Here's what to do if your dog ingests it

While the private use of marijuana is now legal in South Africa, vets are warning that the drug poses a serious risk to dogs if they ingest it.

Vets are warning against THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, because it's extremely toxic to dogs.

Many people have taken to cultivating marijuana on their properties following the drug being legalised for private use in South Africa.

The plant, and the drug, has subsequently become a greater risk to dogs. Even exposure to second hand smoke is dangerous to dogs. 

Dorrie Black, a veterinarian for Animal Internal and Specialty Services Medicine told NPR that dogs sniff out anything and everything and may ingest marijuana by chewing the remainder of a stub.  

What to look out for

The minimum lethal oral dose for dogs is anything more than 3g/kg of THC, and the clinical effects can begin showing after 60 minutes. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, symptoms of marijuana toxicity in dogs include:

  • Unstable or unsteady movements
  • Drops of urine (a steady trickle)
  • Anxiety
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils or "glassy eyes"
  • Low temperature
  • A dazed expression 

What do I do if I think my dog has ingested marijuana?

It is recommended that, even if you're unsure how much your dog has ingested, you should see a vet to be on the safe side.

Black says that the drug itself will not kill your dog, but rather its side-effects, which include blockage of the airways by vomit.

The procedure

Gary Kruger, the hospital manager at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA in Grassy Park, walked us through the procedure if this should happen to a dog.

"Since there is no antidote for marijuana, there are two ways in which we would proceed.

"Firstly, if ingestion occurred less than 30 minutes before the consultation, we make activated charcoal and give it to the dog."

Activated charcoal is a liquid given orally which binds the toxins and prevents absorption.

"Secondly, if absorption has already taken place and the animal is showing symptoms of marijuana toxicity, we will provide supportive care to help the pet through the clinical symptoms."

This is done by regulating the temperature of the animal to make sure it isn't too cold or too hot. Maintaining hydration is helpful.

"Anti-vomiting medication can also be given to help limit fluid loss, while closely monitoring the dog's heart rate to ensure that it is stable. Due to potential trouble walking and injuring itself, the clinic staff will help keep the pet comfortable and confined so it won't be injured," he said. 

Pricing 

The cost of the procedure would be as follows: "In terms of the agreement with the South African Veterinary Council, the CoGH SPCA undertakes to carry out treatments for animals whose owners cannot afford private veterinary fees, as long as there is proof of income."

As such, these treatments and procedures are provided at costs which can be significantly lower than private veterinary fees. "In most cases we will charge between R1 000 and R2 000," Kruger explained.

What about other animals?

According to the ASPCA, cannabis is toxic to dogs, cats and horses.

Image credit: iStock

 
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