What to Know About Cannabis and Pets

What to Know About Cannabis and Pets

It’s only natural for dogs, cats and other pets to sniff at and snoop around something new and unfamiliar whether they’re indoors or outdoors. And as legal recreational and medical marijuana use climbs across the U.S. — more than 30 states allow one or both — there is greater concern that animals could be poisoned by accidentally consuming unattended or discarded marijuana, whether in its natural form or as edibles.

This summer, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana, and the law goes into effect January 1, 2020. (Medical marijuana has been sold there since 2015.) The new legislation prompted the American Veterinary Medical Association, based in Schaumburg, Illinois, to issue various facts and stats related to marijuana and pets:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in marijuana that produces a high for humans, is toxic to dogs and can cause vomiting, incoordination, depression, sleepiness or excitation, low blood pressure, low body temperature and seizures.
  • This year, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center reported a 765% increase in calls about marijuana ingestion by animals over the same period in 2018.
  • The Pet Poison Helpline has reported a more than 400% increase in marijuana-related calls over the previous six years.
  • A 2012 study showed that cases of marijuana toxicosis at two Colorado veterinary hospitals quadrupled from 2005-10, during which the number of state medical marijuana registrations increased by more than 100%.

By maintaining safe surroundings and closely monitoring behavior, you can minimize the chances of your pets experiencing an accidental marijuana poisoning and also be better prepared to react accordingly should one occur.

“Signs of marijuana toxicity appear to be similar in dogs and cats, although they can vary significantly on a case-by-case basis, within the same species,” said Michael San Filippo, senior media relations specialist for the AVMA.

In addition to the aforementioned symptoms, others are incoordination, sleepiness, excitation/aggression, hypersalivaton and dilated pupils, according to San Filippo. The AVMA advises bringing pets showing any signs of marijuana toxicity to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

What About Hemp?

Treats, supplements and other animal-specific products made from hemp — which often carry the acronym CBD because they contain cannabinoid, the medical component, but little to no THC — have been known to provide relief for pets with anxiety, joint pain, stress and other issues. According to San Filippo, animal poison control centers have shared information about pets exposed to CBD products “who have displayed signs similar to those exposed to products containing THC.” He says another concern is potential drug interactions whenever a pet that’s taking prescribed medications also consumes CBD products.

But recent studies have shown CBD to be safe and effective — and not causing problems when combined with traditional medicine. A team led by Dr. Joe Wakshlag at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine determined that 2 milligrams of CBD oil twice per day can help increase activity and comfort in dogs with osteoarthritis. In addition, Colorado State University conducted a clinical study in which some dogs with idiopathic epilepsy took CBD oil along with standard anticonvulsant drugs, and the results were encouraging.

“We saw a correlation between how high the levels of CBD were in these dogs with how great the seizure reduction was,” said Dr. Stephanie McGrath, who led the Colorado State study. “It’s really exciting that perhaps we can start looking at CBD in the future as an alternative to existing anticonvulsive drugs.”

For pets who are “given too many” CBD products or for those animals that “get into the bag” on their own, the ASPCA says on its website that treatment is “largely symptomatic and supportive.” Specifically, the ASPCA notes that “mild cases may be managed at home; more significantly affected pets may benefit from IV fluids, antiemetics and good nursing care (such as warming in hypothermic patients).”

We know pets are curious creatures, so remember to keep any unsafe products out of their reach and monitor them when providing CBD or hemp products. Consult your veterinarian as needed and don’t be afraid to do research and ask questions.

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