What Will Cannabis Do to My Pet?

By Joan Eberhardt

Cannabis consumption can lead to lots of generally positive feelings when people use it responsibly, right? So, it stands to logic that cannabis would work the same way for man’s best friend, right? Wrong. Animals can too easily overdose on marijuana. It’s rare for a pet to overdose on cannabis fatally, but it can easily lead to a severe illness that will last for hours or days.  The amount of cannabis it takes to get a 150-pound person lightly toasted would have an effect 10 times stronger on a 15-pound cat or dog. The ASPCA considers marijuana to be a toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Symptoms of cannabis intoxication can be “prolonged depression, vomiting, incoordination, sleepiness or excitation, (incontinence), dilated pupils, low blood pressure, low body temperature, seizure, coma, death (rare).” If a pet is suspected of having ingested marijuana, contact pet poison control or your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Veterinarians in states with robust cannabis laws have seen a marked increase in the number of pets they treat with marijuana intoxication since the early 2000s. Cannabis intoxication can make your dog or cat lethargic, distressed, experience a decreased heart rate, disoriented or unstable, lead to drooling or incontinence. This can happen if a dog or cat ingests marijuana plant material, or an edible such as a brownie or cookie (which presents a double whammy if it contains chocolate, which can be toxic to dogs), or ingested through smoke. Any adult recreational or medical marijuana user would be responsible to ensure their cannabis is stored in a secure location where pets cannot access it.

The negative symptoms of cannabis intoxication appear to be more pronounced on smaller and younger dogs and puppies. The APSCA Pet Poison Control Center says 95 percent of the calls about a marijuana intoxication are about dogs. Cats seem to be a little more choosy about what they will eat, whereas a dog is less discriminating. Cats who do ingest cannabis, and it does happen, can experience prolonged symptoms in which a veterinarian may keep a pet under supervision with added fluids for hours or days as treatment, as a pet that lacks the coordination to drink can become dehydrated. Because some dogs are just the way dogs are, if a dog eats cannabis plant matter or an edible twice, a pet owner should not consider that as confirmation that the dog consents to marijuana smoke being blown in its face. Dogs and cats cannot consent to cannabis use, don’t do it for them. Pet owners should store their cannabis in a durable, locking case, on a high shelf or otherwise out of paws’ reach.

There is some anecdotal evidence that some dogs and cats can benefit from controlled doses of medical marijuana products available specifically for pets in legal markets. Unfortunately, because cannabis remains a legally tricky subject, veterinarians are unable to recommend or prescribe it, but that has not stopped pet owners from administering it at home. One dog trainer in California, where medical marijuana has been the law of the land for nearly 20 years, uses medical marijuana to treat certain symptoms in her sick foster pets. A Jack Russell who had multiple surgeries, a Rat Terrier being treated for cancer, and a Chihuahua-mix with severe anxiety are all treated with appropriate and controlled doses of medical marijuana concentrate and all report a reduction in negative behavior, symptoms of pain and a general improvement in behavior and demeanor. Though there have been mixed successes, a 14-year old Tabby named Bart, even with repeated adjustment in treatment in dosing, does not show improvement in his arthritic legs. Pet owners who think their ill pet could benefit from medical marijuana should consult with their veterinarian before beginning any treatment.

Check out this video from CNBC featuring some success stories with pet owners who have administered CBD to their pets.

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