Pet Alert: Legalized Marijuana Can Mean Death to Your Dog
- Classic signs of poisoning include glassy eyes, a dazed expression, slow response times, loss of coordination and dribbling urine; the more THC the dog ingests, the more severe the symptoms,
- Marijuana for humans contains much more THC than pets can safely consume; CBD oil for pets is made from hemp plants and contains very low levels of THC, which removes the risk of toxicity.
A Y 2012 retrospective study (Ys 2005 to 2010) analyzed trends in marijuana toxicosis in dogs living in states with legalized medical marijuana. The researchers looked at 125 family dogs in Colorado that had been seen by a veterinarian at 1 of 2 veterinary hospitals for known or suspected marijuana poisoning.
Their results revealed a significant correlation between the number of medical marijuana licenses and marijuana toxicosis cases seen at the 2 hospitals. The majority of dogs recovered, but 2 dogs who ingested edibles made with medical-grade THC butter did not survive.
Fast-forward to Y 2018, and the emergency vet staff in California sees 10 cases of marijuana poisonings a week, and they certainly are not alone. According to the American Veterinarian journal, vets across the US are reporting a significant increase in the number of pets, mostly dogs being treated for marijuana intoxication.
Both medical and recreational marijuana have become increasingly available in recent years, and in novel forms such as foods, pills, oils and tinctures. In addition, new hybrids and cultivation techniques have resulted in plants with significantly more THC than in decades past.
The Pet Poison Helpline reported a 448% increase in calls for marijuana poisoning over the past 6 years, with the majority involving pets who ingested marijuana-laced food products.
From the Pet Poison Helpline: “Cannabis sativa and cannabis indica are members of the Cannabaceae family. Slang terms include pot, weed, grass, and Mary Jane, just to name a few. Marijuana affects receptors in the brain which alter normal neurotransmitter function. Dogs and cats can be poisoned by marijuana from smoke exposure or from eating any type of marijuana/THC plant or laced baked foods (e.g., pot brownies, pot butter, etc.).
Other sources of THC include highly concentrated oil products, like butane hash oil (BHO or ‘dabs’), filtered and purified oil (‘shatter’), or wax made from whipped oil. These products are meant to be smoked via a bong (water pipe), or ‘vaped’ like e-cigarettes in order to give users an instantaneous, powerful high. All of them contain 60 [to] 90 [percent] THC, and small ingestion’s pose great risk for pets.”
As veterinarian Dr. Gary Richter of Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California explains, dogs have more cannabinoid receptors than humans, which makes them more susceptible to the effects of cannabis than people.
In dogs that have ingested marijuana, noticeable symptoms can appear within minutes to hours depending on the type of exposure (inhalation versus ingestion). Typical signs of poisoning include glassy eyes, a dazed expression, slow response times, loss of coordination and dribbling urine.
There can also be vomiting and drooling, seizures, changes in heart rate, decreased body temperature, low blood pressure, tremors, dilated pupils, vocalization, neurological stimulation, hyperactivity and coma.
The more THC the dog ingests, the more severe the symptoms usually are.
Treatment is supportive in nature, and depending on the situation may include inducing vomiting and/or administering activated charcoal to minimize the amount of toxin absorbed by the body. For more serious cases, intravenous (IV) fluids may be given and respiration monitored.
Keep all marijuana plants and products stored safely away from pets, and when outdoors with your dog, stay alert for signs he has picked up something in his mouth.
If you know or suspect your dog has ingested marijuana, call your Veterinarian, the nearest emergency animal hospital, or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 immediately.
The legality of treating pets with cannabis products is still up in the air.
That issue aside, it is important to understand the difference between medicinal marijuana for humans versus pets. It is primarily about THC levels humans can tolerate a significantly higher level of THC than is safe for pets.
Today, there a growing cannabidiol market out there for pets too.
CBD oil products approved for pets are made from hemp or cannabis plants that contain all the benefits of medical marijuana, but with low-to-undetectable levels of THC.
There are also studies underway at some veterinary teaching hospitals and colleges to evaluate the effectiveness of CBD oil in treating a variety of conditions that occur in dogs and cats, including seizures and arthritis.
If you are interested in learning more about CBD oil for your pet, be sure to consult with a reliable, reputable source. Ask for a “Certificate of Analysis” from the manufacturer that shows how much THC is in the product (it should never be over 0.3%), how it’s made, and whether it is Oganic and free of pesticides and other chemicals.
I also recommend my friend Dr. Rob Silver’s book, “Medical Marijuana and Your Pet: The Definitive Guide.” It’s written for dog and cat owners to help them understand the benefits and risks of cannabidiol for pets, as well as regulatory issues.
Again, be alert, legalized marijuana is poison for pets.
By Dr. Karen S. Becker
Paul Ebeling, Editor