Marijuana was finally legalized for Canadians this past week, a move that has already led to product shortages as demand exceeds supply across the country. And while our government has been campaigning hard to get the message out about responsible cannabis use for of-age adults, their same warnings seem to be lacking for our four-legged friends.
Marijuana is enjoyed by people across the country for both medicinal and recreational purposes. While that is certainly nothing new, availability of cannabis is now widespread, potentially increasing the number of households where it can be found.
There are many cannibinoids in marijuana, however the two most common are THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, and CBD, or cannabidiol. THC is responsible for psychoactive effects associated with marijuana use, also known as being ‘high’. CBD, on the other hand, does not produce any psychoactive effects. CBD is the healing powerhouse found in both cannabis and its sister plant, hemp.
Marijuana can be harmful to our pets; practising safe handling and storage of the plant in every pet-owning, cannabis-friendly household is imperative.
What are the symptoms of marijuana toxicosis in pets, and what needs to be done in case of emergency?
Marijuana Toxicosis occurs when a pet is exposed to strains of cannabis containing THC. THC is believed to be moderately to severely toxic for pets, while CBD is non-toxic. The amounts of THC and CBD in marijuana varies by strain, or ‘type’ of plant.
It is recommended to keep pets away from THC at all times.
CBD, on the other hand, is increasingly popular for helping ailing pets suffering from numerous health issues. CBD is used to treat everything from anxiety, to joint pain, to seizures. Always use a pet-specific product and consult a pet health professional before using CBD-infused product for pets. CBD products derived from hemp do not contain THC.
Pets can come into contact with marijuana in various ways. Ingestion is the most common cause of marijuana toxicosis in pets, by either eating the plant itself, or consuming an infused edible, such as a ‘pot brownie’ left in an accessible area. However, secondhand smoke can also be potentially harmful to pets, so if you are smoking or vaping, either do so outside or in a well-ventilated room away from pets.
If you believe your pet may have accidentally consumed, or been exposed to cannabis, it is important to know what symptoms to look for. Symptoms generally include lethargic behaviour or sedation, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, limited mobility, and also vomiting. It is also common for pets to have a higher or lower heart rate, whining or crying, agitated behaviour, incontinence, tremors or seizures, and potentially a coma. Depending on how much THC your pet was exposed to, symptoms can last anywhere from hours to days.
If you believe your pet has been exposed to marijuana, contact your veterinarian immediately. Although there is no antidote or cure, a vet can monitor your pet’s vital signs, keep them hydrated, regulate their body temperature, and also give them medications for things like nausea.
Keeping your pet safe from cannabis exposure can be quite easy. Treat it as if it were any other prescription medication. Keep dried cannabis in a child-proof container and store it in a cupboard or in an elevated, inaccessible area. Do the same for edibles, keeping them off tables and other easy-to-access locations. When smoking or vaporizing marijuana inside your home, be sure to do so away from all animals, and provide adequate ventilation to clear the room.
As we continue to move towards a more cannabis-friendly nation, it’s our duty to understand how to use cannabis in a responsible and safe manner.
Brandon Forder – also known as The Pet Expert – is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, a family-owned and -operated business located in Meaford. He has over twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour and lifestyle. Canadian Pet Connection is an industry leader committed to providing their clients with the highest levels of personal, attentive service. Learn more at www.CanadianPetConnection.ca