Protecting Your Pets from Cannabis Ingestion
Here are a few tips to help keep your pet out of the hospital when it comes to cannabis.
Most pet-owners tend to see their pets as akin to their children — they dote over them and try to protect them from undue suffering whenever possible. And cannabis medicine, particularly CBD products, has certainly shown promise for pets suffering from many of the conditions humans use CBD for. However, the opposite appears to be the case for THC. Similar to children, those pets who have ended up getting into their owners’ stashes have often paid the price for it, however temporarily, with symptoms ranging from uncontrollable body movements to vomiting and in the worst cases, even coma, seizure and death. The ASPCA found in 2019 that adverse reports involving cannabis toxicosis to their Animal Poison Control Center had jumped 765% over the previous year. And a recent paper published by PLOS One on 420 polled 251 veterans in the US and Canada about the pets they’ve treated, both before and after cannabis was legalized in October, 2018, for cannabis toxicosis. “The number of toxicosis cases reported among all surveyed veterinarians was significantly higher after October 2018,” the researchers reported. “This trend was observed both in Canada and in the US.”
And while most of the pets surveyed were dogs, the vets also reported tending to cats, iguanas, cockatoos, ferrets and horses. The good news apparently was that the vast majority of pets recovered within 24 hours, either as outpatients or at the hospital. However, tragically, the vets did report 16 pets that died during their treatment. So how can pet-owners avoid this scenario, especially as cannabis becomes more prevalent in modern society?
WHAT BRINGS PETS TO THE HOSPITAL
While having too much of a cannabis edible is certainly no fun for anyone, it’s particularly difficult for dogs. Dogs don’t just produce 11-hydroxy-THC upon metabolizing edible THC, but also 8-OH-Delta-9-THC as well. The high that dogs experience also lasts far longer and exhibits more troubling symptoms, such as
- Urinary incontinence
- Ataxia (loss of control over muscle movements)
- Hyperesthesia (increased sensitivity)
- Bradycardia (slowed heartbeat)
These were the primary symptoms reported by the veterinarians who responded to the PLOS One survey. And as expected, most of the animals ended up getting their toxicosis through eating edibles — even though adult-use cannabis edibles would not be legally sold in Canada, where the vast majority of completed surveys came from, until October, 2019. (Researchers admit a lack of information as to whether these pets had accidentally eaten products made for either humans or animals.) In addition, pet-owners reported pets eating their own plants, inhaling second-hand smoke or consuming discarded cannabis products on the street. Moreover, according to WebMB, dogs can store THC metabolites in their body, which means once they have their next meal, they can re-experience their symptoms again.
Just like with humans, however, time is the best cure. Sometimes, IV fluids, activated charcoal or even anti-emetics can be used — in particular, vets used charcoal for all the iguana cases they reported. But unless the pet has just consumed the THC and hasn’t shown symptoms, emetics are usually avoided because of the side effects. What is less certain for now is what accounts for the rare cases of pet mortality. Because of the continued stigma surrounding cannabis and the lack of research into the relative risks surrounding different kinds of edibles, little is known about what may have actually killed these pets. At least with dogs, chocolate, raisins and other ingredients commonly used to make cannabis edibles are known to be fatal, and are assumed to play a factor in fatal cases.
STOW IT AWAY!
For those who have pets or children in the house and consume cannabis, a scent-proof container is becoming a true necessity. Especially if you own a dog, this container should also be durable enough that it can’t be ripped open. "Those lovely childproof bottles that we keep prescription medications in are not dog-proof," North American Veterinary Community chief veterinary officer Dr. Dana Varble told CNN. "Anyone who's ever seen a dog chew up a plastic toy or a shoe can see how easily that can happen." And while it shouldn’t have to be said, getting your pet high can also lead to the same unintended and potentially fatal consequences as well, too.
The overall prevalence of cannabis toxicosis in pets is hard to measure in a country where cannabis is still illegal. And unlike humans, there aren’t many good tests to accurately measure the presence of THC in most pets. But if you have cannabis and pets, there’s a chance chance they’ll become a statistic unless you get started in protecting your stash.