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Pets and Cannabis

Do you know the effects that cannabis has on your pets? Do you know what to do if you suspect that your pet has ingested cannabis?

What is cannabis?

Recreational and most medical cannabis products are prepared using the Cannabis sativa L plant, usually by drying its flowers and leaves. More than 100 chemicals, known as cannabinoids, come from the cannabis plant.

Recreational cannabis, which is smoked, vaporized or baked into oral preparations for humans, contains high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes psychoactive effects on the mind. This class of cannabis has the highest risk for pet toxicity.

Medical cannabis contains moderate to high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound, and lower levels of THC. These medicinal products may be prescribed to human patients for anti-nausea, pain relief and other medical reasons. But be careful because some of these products contain enough THC to produce toxicity in pets.

Cannabis that contains very low levels (less than 0.3%) of THC in its flowers and leaves is classified as hemp. This tends to be the most used ingredient for “medicinal” purposes for pets, with products including hemp oil, tincture or hemp powder. Effective and safe dosages of hemp products have not been studied.

Is cannabis safe for pets?

The safety and efficacy of these products are unknown. There’s also limited research on the use of these types of products in animals. Studies show that dogs have a higher sensitivity to cannabinoids than people, which may put them at risk. Cannabis of any type is not researched for use in animals, and giving products to your pet may have unknown side effects, unproven effectiveness and could result in a medical crisis. Hopefully in time research will be done and a safe and effective dose will be determined.

What are the signs of cannabis toxicity in pets?

  • Lack of balance and coordination
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Excessive salivation
  • Vomitingjnm
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Disorientation
  • Slow heart rate
  • Change in body temperature
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Urinary incontinence

What should I do if I think my pet has ingested cannabis?

Take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.

Written by: Dr. Jennifer Merry, DVM

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