(PETS/ANIMAL HEALTH) COLORADO — Many people assume if medical marijuana use is beneficial for themselves, it must be safe for their dogs as well. However, this is far from the truth as marijuana can actually be quite harmful and toxic for dogs.

In states like Colorado, where medical marijuana is legal, veterinarians are witnessing an increasing number of dogs getting high—either as a result of finding their guardian’s stash, consuming marijuana edibles, or inhaling second-hand smoke.

The number of dogs treated for cannabis ingestion is on the rise in states like Colorado where medical marijuana is now legal. Photo Credit: CBS4

Although most dogs survive, marijuana ingestion can be life-threatening to dogs, or at the very least, an unwelcome “bad trip.”

This phenomenon has led to a spike in YouTube video clips of “stoner dogs” and “dogs getting high.” Advertising the effects of marijuana on dogs has resulted in a pyramid effect in which more and more unaware guardians are experimenting with not only their drugs, but their dogs as well.

Vet clinics say, in the past, they would treat dogs high on marijuana just a few times a year. Now, guardians bring in dogs under the influence up to five times a week.

Wheat Ridge clinic veterinarian Dr. Stacy Meola conducted a five-year study that shows the number of dogs that become ill from marijuana ingestion has quadrupled in Colorado since medical marijuana was legalized.

Veterinarians say, most of the time, dogs consume medical marijuana by eating marijuana-laced food products that are left in the open.

“I just want dogs, kids to be safe. It needs to be treated like any other drug. If you came home with a prescription of vicodin from your doctor you wouldn’t just leave it sitting there,” veterinarian Dr. Stacy Meola said.

While some think it is funny to get their dogs high and post videos documenting their pets’ unusual behavior online, Colorado veterinarians say, with side effects being potentially fatal, there is nothing funny about stoned dogs.

Fortunately, most dogs survive and are back to their normal state within 24 hours; but this is not always the case.

Dr. Meola has witnessed two dogs die after consuming baked goods that contained medical grade marijuana butter, which appears to be more toxic to dogs.

Most of the time, stoned dogs will show symptoms such as staggering, lethargy, vomiting, and over-sensitivity to sound and light. Sometimes pets will even fall into a coma.

Dogs accidentally get stoned by getting into marijuana-laced food products that are left in the open. Photo Credit: CBS4

According to Jennifer Bolser of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, technically, dogs can’t get “high” like humans can. When asked if pets can get high as a person would understand the sensation, she answered, “No. Marijuana exposure in pets causes neurologic toxicity, which is not the same as the “high” that people experience. The symptoms (staggering, agitation, stupor, etc.) that develop in pets do not appear enjoyable for them.”

Veterinarians say guardians are typically reluctant to admit medical marijuana might have been the cause for their sick dog. However, if cannabis ingestion is a possible factor, it is important to tell the vet immediately so they can quickly treat the animal.

If you notice that your pet has red eyes, poor motor function, an irregular heart beat, and/or poor temperature regulation, he or she might have accidentally ingested marijuana and requires veterinary medical attention.

Just as dark chocolate is safe for humans but potentially poisonous to dogs, the same goes for marijuana. In other words, marijuana is a toxin and vets urge individuals to keep it at a safe distance from animals.

— Alisa Manzelli, exclusive to Global Animal




  1. Every article I read like this has data on dogs being treated for poison after ingesting it, but thought the writers imply that smoking out your dog is bad, there never seem to be documented cases where the dog was harmed by inhaling the smoke and not by ingesting the marijuana. Does anyone have any evidence of harm by getting high by secondhand smoke? (I realize all smoke is harmful, but is there anything that proves the harm from marijuana smoke is worse than, say, cigarettes?)

  2. Still best to avoid giving edibles to dogs. I have a friend who accidentally gave his dog some potatoes that were cooked in pot butter and the dog couldn't move or control his bladder for hours. Dogs digest differently than humans. The same amount would barely have gotten a person high. Save the pot butter for thanksgiving and mess with your family instead 🙂

  3. If anything in the butter killed the dogs, it was not cannabis. All mammals have receptor sites for cannabinoids, and it is impossible to overdose. Foods that are too rich and fatty can cause pancreatitis. A small taste of butter probably won't hurt a pet but I wouldn't offer it in large amounts.butter is extremely high in fat and can cause an upset stomach, diarrhea and in worst conditions an damage to the pancreas and vomiting.