Cannabis and Your Canine
Searching for the right treatment for your furry friend?
We all love our pets and want what’s best for them. When it comes to medical care, many of us will spare no expense. Now that cannabis is being used as a medicine for humans, we'll explore how it can help our pets, particularly dogs, and what we can do to prevent them from having a THC overdose.
K-9 Cannabis Consumption
There is no benefit that we know of thus far in getting our pets high in the conventional way most people think about. Blowing smoke in their faces or hot-boxing them is bordering on unethical, but luckily, beneficial compounds in the plant can be isolated and extracted so that our pets get all of the best health benefits without any potential harmful side effects that smoke causes.
However, there is the occasional incident when a pet gets into your infused human treats. Let’s look at this instance first, then dive into how cannabis can be used to treat your pet's ailments.
If Your Dog Consumes a Human Edible
We occasionally hear news stories about cannabis snacks being left on the counter and pets inadvertently eating them. Usually it’s a dog. Let’s face it - dogs will eat almost anything. Cats, not so much.
What can be worrisome is that a dog can experience a coma or death if it eats too many cannabis edibles made for humans. Instances of coma and death are extremely rare, but it remains a concern - given the high doses of THC in edibles made for human consumption; a human body weight.
Clinical signs of canine cannabis intoxication include:
- urinary incontinence
Many incidents where pets eat cannabis edibles probably don’t get reported. However, there are studies based on the cases that have been documented.
Studies On Canines & Cannabis
In a 2012 study, the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care documented that between the years 2005 and 2010, 125 dogs were treated for cannabis ingestion in Colorado. Between those years two dogs died from cannabis ingestion and overdose.
A 2013 article in Topics in Companion Animal Medicine cited a minimum lethal THC toxicity for dogs is greater than 3g/kg. While the study fails to share how this toxicity was determined, it makes sense that if you have a 10 kg size dog and give it 30 grams of THC bad things will happen.
- Most human cannabis edibles aim for a THC content of 10 grams. That amount of THC has a serious impact on an adult male human. Give three times the amount of THC to an animal that is a tenth of the size of an adult male human and you can see how a dog can suffer severe consequences.
A 1973 article in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology concluded that THC values of between 3000 and 9000 mg/kg were nonlethal for dogs and monkeys.
A broader 2004 study published in the Journal of Veterinary and Human Toxicology reviewed 213 incidents from 1998-2001 where dogs ingested cannabis in doses ranging from 84.7 mg/kg to 26.8 g/kg. According to the study all dogs made a full recovery.
- Most incredible is that a dog would be tested with these amounts of THC. If you have ever tried cannabis edibles yourself you realize that 26.8 grams of THC per kg of weight is a massive dose of THC.
- This amount of THC given to a human would cause severe temporary psychosis with the possibility of extended trauma post-event. It is difficult to know what goes through a dog’s mind when it is intoxicated with THC but we do know from external observation that they are impacted.
When dosing a dog intravenously with THC at an amount of 130 mg/kg, it will kill 50% of animals, according to a 1983 study.
- The same study indicates an increase in tolerance to THC in dogs. According to the research, a dog’s increase in tolerance is attributable to adaptions by the animal’s central nervous system rather than an increase in metabolizing the cannabis.
The most likely outcome your pet will experience if it ingests cannabis in edible form is the description that comes from this 1843 journal article from the Provincial Medical Journal out of London:
Ten grans of Nipales churrus (cannabis in a resin form), dissolved in spirit were given to a middling sized dog. In half an hour he became stupid and sleepy, dozing at intervals, starting up, wagging his tail as if extremely contented, he ate some food greedily, on being called to he staggered to and fro, and his face assumed a look of utter and helpless drunkenness. These symptoms lasted about two hours, and then gradually passed away; in six hours he was perfectly well and lively.
If your dog accidentally ingests your cannabis edibles try to ascertain how many grams THC was eaten. Compare this amount to the body weight of your dog to figure out what kind of danger the dog might be in. This will also be helpful information if you decide to take the dog to the veterinarian.
Everyone responds differently to cannabis, but a 200-pound adult male will absolutely feel the impact of a 10mg THC edible chocolate. Imagine what the effect is on a 50-pound dog.
Owners have reported the effects of cannabis on their dogs who have accidentally eaten pot edibles, which include:
- Stoner-type bizarre behavior
- Loss of bladder function
- Muscle twitching
- Loss of function in certain body parts
- Loss of bowel control
- Impaired motor skills
If you have a bunch of cannabis flower sitting on the table and your dog eats it nothing will happen. Just eating the plant cannot cause intoxication because it requires decarboxylation - applied heat to transform THC-A into THC.
Controversy Using Cannabis To Treat Your Pets
Sometimes it's easy to tell what our pets want. A whimpering cry from the dog when food is in hand simply means s/he wants a bite. Animals feeling acute pain will yelp out immediately and shrink from the source of pain.
In many cases, we have no idea whether our pet might be sick or in pain until it's too late. And as our pets age, they face physical challenges many humans face.
The top ailments dogs face as they age:
- Gum disease
- Kidney disease
Pet owners are turning to cannabis products designed specifically for animals in order to help alleviate these symptoms and enhance pet lives. With cannabis treatment, pets often receive enhanced quality of life, improved comfort, as well as additional months or years added to their lives.
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved cannabis for pets mainly because research is limited. Although government agencies like the FDA and DEA do not acknowledge the benefits of cannabis for either pets or animals, pet owners across the United States continue to share stories of cannabis helping their pets.
Much of the research surrounding cannabis for pets is research performed on rats and extrapolated to refer to humans. It's only become recent that such information is being applied to other animals/pets.
The American Veterinary Medical Association remains silent on the topic. The rare educated doc or vet will speak out but cannabis, but it is still not a common treatment recommended by veterinarians.
Three popular veterinarian responses when asking if cannabis is a suitable treatment for your pet:
- It is illegal
- I don’t know anything about that
Even if your animal will benefit from cannabis in some form, your veterinarian will likely not be a useful resource for information or treatment methods because for them cannabis is still illegal. That’s not to say if your dog gets too high your veterinarian won’t be able to treat them. Your veterinarian will absolutely always provide the best care they can. It is just that they cannot recommend or prescribe cannabis treatments.
Discover More: Replacing Your Pet's Medication with Cannabis Safely
Private Sector Supplying Cannabis Pet Products
Fortunately, the private sector has developed solutions that pet owners can use to help their pets.
Companies now offer cannabis animal treatments that maximize the amount of CBD in the treatment while minimizing the amount of THC contained in the product. THC causes the intoxication effect of cannabis and when it can be eliminated or minimized, pets receive much of the benefit of cannabis without concern for psychoactive effects.
This is comforting for owners because dogs and cats are unable to communicate how intoxication affects them. It is better to err on the side of caution rather than cause our pets unnecessary discomfort by getting them high. The goal is to provide therapeutic impact through proper use of the plant.
When a pet treatment that contains cannabidiol (CBD) and no Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is administered to pets, it helps with a large number of conditions.
The ten best benefits from CBD treatment
- Gastrointestinal benefits and support of the digestive process
- Improved immunity and support of the immune system
- Eases joint discomfort
- Improved mobility
- Maintains healthy neurological function
- Improves demeanor and provides a calming effect
- Seizure relief
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved appetite
There is no toxicity associated with pure CBD pet products so there is no danger of overdose. CBD pet treatments come in many forms including liquid, pills, edible treats. As the research continues to grow in the area of pet cannabis treatments we will see other varieties come to market.
Your veterinarian may be permitted to discuss products made with CBD. Start the conversation there and take the time to conduct your own research.
Learn More: Cannabis Lab Analysis Explained
Protecting Your House Pets
Unless your pet is a primate or animal with opposable thumbs, you have a distinct advantage when keeping your cannabis edibles secure. Simple strategies like storing your edibles in areas that a dog cannot reach like upper cabinets or shelves go a long way to keeping your pet safe.
The three best ways to store your cannabis treats:
- In a secure jar or other container out of pet access
- In a locked or latched cabinet that a pet can’t reach
- In a different room than where food is stored
When you are enjoying edibles for yourself, take what you need then return the remaining package to the safe storage place you have chosen. Once the edibles you have eaten begin to take effect you may feel so good you lost track of where you put the package of treats. It is this kind of natural oversight that lead to pets getting into your supply.
Cannabis flower will not pose a risk to your pet (because it hasn't yet been decarboxylated) but you certainly don’t want dog slobber messing up your bud. Leaving your flower out where your pet can access it openly leaves you open to contamination by pet fluids of some sort.
Talk to your veterinarian to see what they know. Cannabis in some forms is still illegal in many states, and many people are not well educated on the subject. Take part in your own research and discover the newfound studies that support using cannabis as a medicine for pets.