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Marijuana and Pet Safety

Marijuana and Pet Safety

In April 2017, the Ontario federal government introduced legislation to legalize cannabis (marijuana/pot). The legalization of marijuana is expected to go in to effect as early as July 2018. There will be many rules, laws and regulations pertaining to the sales, purchasing, and where the recreational use of cannabis will be permitted. There are and will be many questions with regards to the legalization of marijuana, it’s use, and the effects it can/does have on people, but what about our pets? As pet parents, do we need to be concerned for our pets health and safety when it comes to marijuana and possible exposure? What happens if our dog or cat is exposed to marijuana smoke and/or edible marijuana products?

On this episode of Vet Chat, I have asked Dr. Ryan Llera to weigh in on the topic of marijuana and the safety of our pets. What is it pet parents need to know, how concerned should we be, what if our pets are exposed to marijuana smoke, and what to do we do if our pets ingest edible marijuana products?

Marijuana and Pet Safety

Marijuana and Pet Safety

Dr.Ryan Llera:

Marijuana and Pet Safety

It’s the modern day and more governments are legalizing marijuana.¬† For years, people have been lighting up and living in constant fear their stash would be discovered or worse, eaten by their pets.¬† Behind all the new legalization is the potential medical benefits for people, but what about pets?¬† No, I’m not suggesting you grab a spot on the couch and light up a joint with your dog or cat.

Trying to get the medical benefits of marijuana for your pet is not as simple as feeding it to them or lighting up and blowing smoke in their face.¬† On the contrary, either of these methods would be harmful or toxic to your pet.¬† When a pet eats marijuana, it has a very typical presentation (so don’t lie to your veterinarian).¬† Incoordination when trying to walk, dilated pupils, slower heart rate, and dribbling of urine are the main signs being seen.¬† For small intoxications, monitoring may be sufficient but more severe cases may need more supportive care.¬† Blowing smoke in their face isn’t going to get them high but it sure can cause some irritation to the airway, similar to asthma, or the eyes.¬†

The prevalence of edible marijuana in the marketplace can lead to additional toxicities depending on the other ingredients (example = pot brownies can also cause chocolate toxicity).¬† A quick search and I found cereal bars, gummy bears, cookies, butter, honey, and mock Pop Tarts.¬† I even found candies containing xylitol (yes the same ingredient in sugar free gums that causes low blood sugar and liver failure).¬† Any of these objects might be easily enjoyed by your pet.¬† While the cannabinoid or THC component of marijuana isn’t likely to cause any permanent or lasting problems, the other components of the edibles could be quite sickening or potentially fatal.¬† Like with all potential toxins, make sure to keep anything they might ingest out of reach.

So while research has been done to some extent, it’s been mostly for human benefit though a large portion of existing research was done on animals.¬† There’s no doubt in my mind that at some point in my career I may end up prescribing cannabinoids for the benefit of a patient.¬† And that’s where we need to focus….the actual cannabinoids that may benefit animals.¬† Some doses are anecdotal and have not been established for all uses or specific cannabinoids.¬† Hemp in itself does not have the psychotropic effects that marijuana does but it also has higher concentrations of the cannabinoids.¬† The active ingredient in marijuana is THC and there are actually different forms of it that have varying effects.

The future of medical marijuana and pets could be interesting.¬† Benefits could include appetite stimulation, anti-cancer properties, and relieving of anxiety to name a few.¬† As of this point though, it’s not legal but also we don’t quite know enough to use it safely or effectively on a routine basis.¬† So if you ask your veterinarian about using it in your pets, we aren’t allowed to prescribe or suggest it ‚Äď not because we aren’t willing to try something that has been shown to have some benefits but because we could lose our licenses.¬† Keep your stash safe and if your pet finds some be sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

 

Thank you to Dr. Llera for continuing to share and inform pet parents on the topic of pet health and wellness.

Dr. Ryan Llera

Dr.R. Llera

Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 2 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses, and a rabbit. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook & Instagram

 

 

 

Author: Kelly Harding with Edie The Pug

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19 Comments

  1. Very interesting post about a topic that i think is very timely. THC in marijuana is highly toxic to animals, and this information is important for owners to understand. Breathing in the smoke or ingesting it accidentally can have serious ramifications. Now, that isn’t to say that I do not support cannabis for pets. I strongly believe CBD or PCR oil without THC is very good for pain relief and anxiety relief in our animals, as long as it is from a trusted source like Treatibles.

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  2. Very interesting topic, especially for us here in Canada with the imminent legalization. I know according to the ASPCA’s website, Marijuana is on their toxic list, (but oddly enough, so is catnip!) and certainly more research needs to be done. For now, we’ll stick to catnip! heh heh

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    • Catnip is on the toxic list?! I wonder why that is, I must investigate the reasoning for this.

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      • Yes, strangely enough ASPCA toxic lust really errs on the side of caution. Catnip is definitely safe for cats.

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  3. Great article. I have not tried marijuana on my dogs, although my one cocker could have benefited from it during his last month of life. My vet didn’t want me to give cbd treats since she said it could cause stomach issues with other medications he was on.

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  4. Very interesting. I never really thought about the effect on our dogs. I don’t plan on having any in our household, so I’m not too concerned. But I have read about some of the medical benefits from the oil. Sharing to spread the word!

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    • My concern is even though pet parents may not have marijuana or marijuana edible products in their own home, with the legalization of it, there is bound to be more chances of our dogs/pets being exposed to it outside of our home.

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  5. Once we made Cookie puke because she found and “inhaled” something outside what appeared to have been a brownie. The amount of chocolate seemed fine for her size but when I was talking to a vet, they asked whether it could have been a pot brownie. Huh. I had no idea. So out came the peroxide …

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  6. There is definitely a lot of research yet to do about marijuana and pets, but the research that is out there so far about dogs and CBD is astounding. I am so excited to see a time when we give our dogs less harsh prescription meds and instead turn to a more natural plant-based resolution.

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  7. A well thought out and eye opening post! I also appreciate that you are not biased for or against! We need to consider all viable options for health care for humans and pets keeping in mind safety of what we do not yet know.

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  8. It’s legal here so it’s everywhere even though you’re not supposed to smoke it in public. Mr. N found some pastries in front of the pot shop here and I made him leave it because I was afraid they were discarded edibles.

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    • Because this is “new” to us here, there are so many unknowns and questions for us and our pets. I find it interesting that you say even though it is not allowed in public it still happens – I’m thinking this will be the case here as well. Another reason to make sure our dogs understand the “leave it” command!

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  9. Very important post. I remember seeing an episode on Animal Planet a woman’s dog had ate a marijuana brownie or something and almost died. I think the owner’s timing and getting them to the vet was key. They had to induce vomitting so his body didn’t absorb everything. So scary to know marijuana can be fatal.

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    • There are two things going on here – a brownie, something that can be a potential health issue on it’s own, but it was also combined with marijuana. This is something Dr.Llera discusses as well. Digesting marijuana on it’s own can present one health issue, but because marijuana is being included into food products – brownies, cookies, candies, there is the added health concern for our pets.

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  10. “he actual cannabinoids that may benefit animals” Got it in one! If there are benefits I want to know about them, if it is possible to ascertain the usage safely.

    Science throws up things that kill or cure from the wildest corners including this, so I would never say never. Faced with a sick pet I would like all the safe medical aids at my disposal to help them get well, regardless of the ‘hippy’ or ‘trippy’ labels attached to something like this.

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  11. There’s been a lot of interest in potential benefits of medical marijuana for pets. Delighted to see an expert weigh in on the issue, including the cautions.

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  12. Good post. Heck not all humans react well to the plant either. Little known fact: a percentage of the human population can have very unpleasant and violent reactions to it. So it’s safe to assume pets would to. Flip side – I have seen amazing results when used right – on humans and pets. It is always about being well informed and knowing the risks and being prepared not to mention really look into the sourcing.

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    • Yes! It’s always about being well informed from legitimate sources and knowing any and all possible risks involved.

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