Is THC Bad For Dogs? Ataxia In Dogs

Medical review by K9 Healthcare Council of America (K9HCA). Intended for educational purposes only. Always seek medical advice from your veterinarian.

Ataxia Dog

Is THC Toxic for Dogs?

Is THC bad for dogs? That all depends–to begin, it’s necessary to understand that although cannabis is a plant and therefore considered ‘natural’, the effect of weed on dogs is anything but.

Although the funky, psychoactive effects of cannabis can be enjoyable and desirable for humans, animals don’t have the same response to the herb. THC in cannabis can be toxic to dogs and can cause a wide range of disconcerting symptoms for your best friend.

Effects Of Marijuana on Dogs

Even though cannabis is fun and medically beneficial for humans, it is not so much fun for dogs. Dogs don’t experience the pleasurable psychoactive high from THC in marijuana that humans do. Rather, the herb can make your pet profoundly disoriented and frightened.

This is especially true if they ingest cannabis in the form of raw concentrate or edibles which have higher levels of THC than is experienced through smoke exposure alone.

is thc bad for dogs?
Dogs don’t experience the pleasurable psychoactive high from THC in marijuana that humans do.

Humans are able to understand that their psychoactive experience as only temporary–PETS CANNOT! 

Rather, the psychoactive effects are a completely new, unnatural experience for them. Marijuana exposure in pets causes neurologic toxicity, called Static Ataxia, which is not the same as the ‘high’ that people experience.

Ataxia is a condition relating to a sensory dysfunction that produces loss of coordination of the limbs, head, and/or trunk.

The symptoms (staggering, agitation, stupor, etc.) that develop in pets is NOT enjoyable for them–in fact, it’s a very frightening experience.

One disturbing aspect of this toxic THC exposure is the dog stands rigidly and rocks back and forth as if he is trying to move--but cannot! Click To Tweet One disturbing aspect of this toxic THC exposure is the dog stands rigidly and rocks back and forth as if he is trying to move–but cannot!

A dog with ataxia will drool, its eyes open very wide, pupils dilate, muscles get very tense, and the dog looks much as if he might be suffering from unpleasant, fear-provoking drug induced hallucinations.

Although these symptoms may be temporary (lasting anywhere from 12-24 hours depending on the amount ingested) the herb can also cause more serious physical problems, like seizure or coma.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily stop pet owners from giving THC, in the form of cannabis, to their animals.

Is Weed Bad for Dogs?

AUTHORS UPDATE: This article was originally published August 17, 2017. In 2019 the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ poison control center reported a 765% increase in calls about marijuana ingestion by animals compared to the same period the previous year.

And according to the AVMA calls to the Veterinary Services Poison Helpline about accidental marijuana ingestion in pets has surged 448% over the past six years.

Causes Of Ataxia in Dogs

Many of those people who have access to medical marijuana give it to their own dogs, with the rationale that “If it works for me, it’ll most likely work for my dog who has a similar problem.”

Unfortunately, this practice can be very dangerous.

Most people feel that marijuana is safe, and never really all that toxic. Even for people who are not deliberately giving their dogs marijuana it is also possible that dogs will now more easily be able to get overdoses of THC from these various edible products when they are inadvertently been left within the animal’s reach.

The result of an overdose of THC from cannabis for dogs includes the severe symptoms of marijuana toxicosis that was mentioned before, and also may include tremors, vomiting, disorientation and loss of urinary control. This collection of problems is apt to prompt an owner to bring their animal to a veterinary clinic for emergency treatment.

Is THC Bad For Dogs? Effects of weed on dogs. CBD oil for dogs
THC can be found in edible treats, tinctures, flower buds, waxes and soft gels.

How Much THC Is Safe for Dogs?

Some studies suggest that 3 grams per kg of oral THC is the minimum lethal dose for dogs. If your pet eats cannabis, the effects of the herb begin 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion. Unfortunately, they can last for up to to 36 hours. A situation that’s not much fun for Rover!

Not only are things like chocolate and almonds toxic to dogs, but edibles with high THC concentrations produce a more powerful, longer-lasting high than pure cannabis flower buds. So be extra careful not to leave your personal ‘stash’ where your dog can get access.

Symptoms Of Ataxia in Dogs

The most common symptom of ataxia, regardless of the cause, is an abnormal gait in which the dog is very unsteady on her feet. Dogs will often stand with their feet wide apart in an effort to stay upright. They may generally have a head tilt toward one side. If you have cannabis around and you’re concerned that your pet got into it, here are some signs to look out for:

Signs Of THC Toxicity in Dogs:

  • Stumbling, dragging paws while walking
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Easily Startled
  • Glassy, dilated eyes
  • Increased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Seizure
  • Incontinence
  • Low body temperature
  • Coma

Obviously too much THC is bad news for your pets–but even a small amount can be dangerous. A review of current neurological literature shows that dogs have the same kind of endocannabinoid receptors that allow humans to benefit from the therapeutic effects of marijuana. The caution comes from the fact that this same research also says that dogs have a much higher concentration of these receptors in their hindbrains then humans do.

Basically, this means that dogs can develop severe neurologic effects if they receive an overdose of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) at even smaller doses than humans. The effect of THC on their brain is much more profound and ultimately much more dangerous.

CBD for dogs. Is weed bad for dogs? Effects of weed on dogs. CBD oil for dogs.
Dogs are much more sensitive to THC than other mammals (including humans) and so the adverse effects are more exaggerated.

Within the endocannabinoid system THC binds primarily to CB1 receptors of all mammals; however, dogs have the highest concentration of these receptors, particularly in brain areas related to coordination.

Hence, because of this basic element of canine anatomy, dogs are much more sensitive to THC than other mammals (including humans) and so the adverse effects are more exaggerated with potentially lethal consequences.

Ultimately, the body’s endocannabinoid system with its CB1 and CB2 receptors fulfills a major function in maintaining homeostasis within the body (relax, eat, sleep) and is involved in neural activity that interprets pain, elicits memory, governs emotion, and is a determinant for carcinogenesis.

Thus, the low-THC hemp plant is much safer to use in pets than the high-THC marijuana strains!

Some herbalists believe that hemp may be medicinally superior to marijuana because it is botanically closer to the original plant used for medicinal purposes thousands of years ago, before it became popular to breed high-THC strains for recreation.

Therapeutic results have been shown in using CBD derived from full spectrum hemp, particularly in pets with arthritic pain and anxiety issues. Other conditions that could benefit from cannabis include canine seizures, tissue inflammation (from injury or arthritis), dermatitis, cancer and behavioral problems.

Full Spectrum CBD Is a Healthy Alternative Therapy for Dogs

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been the primary focus of cannabis research since 1964, when it was first isolated and synthesized. However, when your furry friend is sick, in pain, or needing End-Of-Life comfort care, what natural medical alternatives are there to care for your trusted companion?

The other primary component of cannabis & hemp is Cannabidiol (CBD) which may hold the answer to alleviate your pet’s suffering. CBD can help your dog feel better, heal faster and live a long healthy life.

is thc bad for dogs. ataxia dogs
Research suggests that CBD has lower toxicity and higher tolerability than THC in both humans and animals.

Pet owners have reported using CBD for dogs to provide palliative care for their olderaging dogs with physical and psychological ailments such as pain, inflammation, canine epilepsy and cancer.

CBD from hemp oil has also been used to relieve other non-specific conditions like arthritis, separation anxiety, allergies, and canine digestive issues with great success. Evidence also supports the use of CBD-rich hemp for symptoms of canine diabetes.

But as with most medications, close monitoring and experimenting with the appropriate amount is important to discovering the ‘Sweet Spot’ of CBD Dosage for your dog.

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