The Deal with Pets and Cannabis

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There are a number of videos available online which show pets – most often dogs – after they have ingested cannabis. Some are cautionary tales, while others are meant to be humorous, but the circumstance is known as “intoxication” for a reason: cannabis is toxic to animals.

What happens if my dog eats marijuana?

Your pet can become intoxicated after ingesting marijuana in its many forms, from the plants themselves, to dried buds, to foods that contain the substance. In rare cases, even cannabis smoke or vapor is problematic.

The symptoms of cannabis intoxication are similar to those induced by other toxins, and can include:

  • Anxious thoughts, agitation, and disorientation
  • Panting, drooling, vomiting
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Lack of interest in food and water
  • Extreme sensory stimulation
  • Lethargy resembling a comatose state
  • Impaired balance – staggering and stumbling
  • Seizures (in rare cases)

What should I do if my pet eats cannabis?

  1. If your animal is stumbling, disoriented, or anxious, try to keep them calm, make sure they remain hydrated, and remove any unnecessary noises or other stimuli – for minor symptoms, it may not be necessary to take them to the vet, as there may not be anything to do but let it pass.
  2. If the symptoms are more serious, or you’re worried your pet could hurt itself, go to the vet.
  3. If consumption was recent, the veterinarian may induce vomiting (after about half an hour, marijuana’s anti-emetic property can make this unsuccessful), and pets with minor symptoms will likely be treated as outpatients. Activated charcoal can be orally administered; it absorbs harmful toxins as it passes through the digestive system. In some cases, an injection of fluids may be required.

Tell the Vet the Truth

Because the symptoms of cannabis intoxication mimic those of others toxins, always tell the veterinarian if you know or suspect your pet has ingested cannabis. If you live in a region where cannabis isn’t legal, don’t worry – the vet isn’t obligated to report the incident, they simply want to ensure your pet has the best care possible. In fact, failing to inform them could lead to expensive – and unnecessary – tests to determine the toxin, and these will greatly increase your bill. There’s also the chance that whatever remedy the vet blindly tries could mix poorly with cannabis.

Keep Cannabis Away From Pets

It is in your and your pet’s best interest to keep cannabis products out of reach. Even though the effects tend to pass quickly, it should not be funny or entertaining to get your pet “high”. Unlike a human, who can rationalize their symptoms, your pet will have no comprehension of what is happening to them. What is more, though cannabis ingestion itself does not appear to be fatal, the symptoms, such as unconsciousness or seizures, could result in serious injury or loss of life.

Can Cannabis Help Sick Pets?

Despite the potential danger, the exploration of medical cannabis as a remedy for sick animals is underway. Concerned owners who want to make their pet’s last months more comfortable have expressed interest in the possibility of using medical cannabis to alleviate pain or encourage appetite.

The reaction to this approach is as varied for animals as it is for humans, with some veterinarians and animal rights supporters encouraging research into the possibility, and others voicing adamant disapproval.

If you think you pet could be helped by marijuana, do not medicate them without first speaking to a trusted veterinarian. They can tell you whether medical cannabis is an option and, if it is, help you determine the correct dosage and potency. CBD – a non-psychoactive cannabinoid – is most likely what the vet will prescribe for your pet.

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