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Marijuana & Pets: Risky Business!

Marijuana & Pets: Risky Business!

THC: Safe & Beneficial for Humans, Toxic for Pets

Cannabis plants produce a group of chemicals called cannabinoids, which produce mental and physical effects when consumed.

While Cannabis sativa contains more than 60 cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most toxic to pets, primarily affecting the nervous system.

According to A Guide to Plant Poisoning of Animals in North America, cattle, horses, pigs and dogs have been intoxicated after eating marijuana. Pollen from the flowers can also cause allergy in humans and dogs.

“Over the past year alone, we’ve had double the marijuana exposures,” says Dr. Ahna Brutlag, senior veterinary toxicologist at the Pet Poison Helpline.

“The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has seen a similar increase. In 2014, the ASPCA’s poison control centers received calls on about 539 cases of animals accidentally consuming cannabis, up from 320 in 2013.”

Dogs, Cats & Weed

How Pets Get Sick

Because marijuana is now available in many states for personal and/or medical use, veterinarians are reporting that they are encountering more incidents of marijuana poisoning in pets, mostly dogs.

It’s usually an accident, when an animal ingests marijuana in edibles, some flowers dropped on the floor or left in easy reach of pets, or even discarded trimmings. However, some folks find humor in allowing or encouraging their pets to ingest or inhale high levels of THC.

As more people are purchasing cannabis products more freely and growing their own around the nation, we can expect even more of these accidents unless people are careful to keep these products away from pets. Cannabis products should be stored out of public view and securely out of reach of pets. Growers must also ensure that their cannabis plants are inaccessible to pets or livestock.

While there are plenty of beneficial, non-psychoactive cannabidiol-based (CBD) edibles and treatments for pets, such as Canna-Pet, these have a completely different formulation than human-grade THC-based edibles, which may contain high levels of THC, depending on the product.

If you wish to use THC or CBD products for the health and wellness of your pets, do plenty of research and speak with a veterinarian or other qualified pet health professional about cannabis-based therapy options that have been specifically formulated for use in dogs and cats.

Marijuana Poisoning: What to Look For

Level of toxicity to pets: Moderate to severe

Dogs and cats can be poisoned by marijuana from:

  • Second hand smoke exposure (really, it’s not cute to blow pot smoke into an animal’s face)
  • From direct ingestion of marijuana or edible foods (e.g., ‘pot’ brownies, cookies, etc)

In dogs and cats poisoned by marijuana, clinical signs can be seen within 3 hours, and include:

  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Respiratory depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vocalization
  • Lethargy
  • Coma
  • Death (rare but possible)

Additional Symptoms

  • Anxiety, panting, and agitation commonly occur following exposure to marijuana.
  • In some pets, marijuana toxicity results in profound lethargy that can border on unconsciousness.
  • Pets suffering from marijuana intoxication often show impaired balance.  They may stagger, stumble, and fall attempting to walk.
  • Drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea may occur, despite the “anti-emetic” (anti-vomiting) qualities of THC
  • Pets may lose bowel and bladder control. This results in house soiling.
  • Extreme responses to noises, movements, and other forms of sensory stimulation may occur in pets that are exposed to marijuana.  These responses can manifest as trembling or jerking of the head or extremities.  In severe cases, the responses may appear similar to seizures.

What to Do If Your Pet Eats Marijuana

If your pet has gotten into some marijuana or marijuana-laced products, don’t wait for symptoms to start; get him to a veterinarian immediately. If your pet has the symptoms of cannabis poisoning and there is a chance he could have ingested marijuana, he needs treatment.

Be honest with the veterinarian about what you think is the cause. If a pet does experience cannabis poisoning, and lives in a region where cannabis possession isn’t legal, know that vets are not obligated to report such a poisoning, and they need this information to properly treat the animal. It also may save you the expense of further expensive diagnostic procedures.

Be good to your critters! Secure your weed from pets (and the people who might visit your home in your absence), and make sure friends and family keep track of their buds around your pets, as well.


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