What to do if your pet ingests recreational drugs, such as cannabis or marijuana.
2023 is the first time recreational drugs made the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s list of Top 10 toxins for pets.
The Pet Poison Helpline taking calls from Canada, the U.S., and the Caribbean has experienced a 735 percent increase in calls about marijuana poisonings in pets from 2018 to 2022.
251 veterinarians in Canada and the U.S. were surveyed by the University of Guelph reporting that cannabis poisonings were most commonly reported in dogs and most likely to be caused by edibles that pets ate while unattended.
The University of Guelph’s study reported that it is probable that your pet will recover from poisoning if they eat cannabis products, however, it is possible for marijuana to kill your pet.
The report continues: “Whether your dog or cat (or in some cases, bird) eats an edible, marijuana flower or inhales excessive amounts of cannabis smoke, it can be dangerous and in some cases, deadly.”
Although some pets died, most recovered completely.
Sophia Solano of The Washington Post writes: “According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), most cases of marijuana toxicity in dogs involve baked goods laced with cannabis, which is more dangerous than ingesting plant material because of high doses of THC concentrates. Human users might limit their intake to one portion, but animals — particularly dogs — are more likely to consume larger amounts, according to Tina Wismer, senior director of the APCC. “They’re going to eat the whole pan of brownies, or that whole batch of chocolate chip cookies,” she says. Marijuana toxicity can also occur when dogs eat the remains of plant material that hasn’t been disposed of properly, like part of a joint left over in a home or on the sidewalk. These cases become more common after large outdoor events, or during times of year when more people smoke outside, Klippen says. The fecal matter of human users can, when consumed by animals, also be toxic.
“The size of a dog can impact how vulnerable it is to marijuana toxicity, but Doug Kratt, veterinarian at Wisconsin’s Central Animal Hospital and former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, says it’s important to remember that dogs are five times more sensitive to marijuana than their owners.
“Cats are also at some risk of ingesting marijuana via edibles or discarded joints, but they are especially prone to nibbling on marijuana plants, says Wismer, which can be dangerous. Cats experience most of the same marijuana toxicity symptoms as dogs.
“Animals react to THC, the cannabis extract that causes “highs,” differently than humans — they experience poisoning, not a high.
Treats and other pet products with CBD derived from marijuana have become increasingly popular as a way to treat arthritis, seizures and other ailments in pets. But there is a key difference between these items and the type of weed you’d find in a human joint or pan of special brownies: These pet products contain little to no THC, which is the agent in marijuana products that causes toxicity in animals.
Still, there are several reasons owners should approach CBD pet products with some skepticism. There are quality issues with CBD treats; according to Teller, up to 70 percent of marijuana-based products currently available for pets do not contain the concentration they claim on the label, and some don’t contain any CBD at all.
CBD can also contain around 0.3 percent THC, says Wismer, so if you use these products, you’ll have to be careful about the amount you give to your pet. “If animals are getting an appropriate dose, it’s not a problem,” she says. “We have seen animals who think that a whole bag of treats is a single serving, and they will ingest it all and end up with marijuana-type signs. Dose determines the poison.”
The increase in cannabis-induced toxicosis coincides with the legalized use in the U.S. and Canada.
Joey Chini, Writer-Producer for CTVNews.ca wrote on April 28, 2023:
“VCA Canada Animal Hospitals, which is made up of a network of veterinary hospitals in six provinces across the country, says it’s important to determine which kind of marijuana product your pet ingested because it affects which treatment your pet will need. For example, a dog that eats a brownie made with cannabis will need treatment for both chocolate toxicity as well as cannabis toxicity, while a dog that inhales marijuana smoke may need respiratory treatment.
“While cannabis products are generally “considered to have a high margin of safety for [most] people” according to VCA Canada, even a small amount of marijuana can negatively affect your pet.
“As noted by VCA Canada says it depends on several factors, such as the age, health, and body size of your pet. Additionally, edibles with high concentrations of THC have been reported to kill pets after they ate them. VCA Canada says reports of pets dying from marijuana poisoning were rare until the development of medical-grade cannabis products.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association says to watch for these signs:
Sleepiness Depression Wobbling, pacing, and agitation Sound or light sensitivity Inappropriate urination Dilated pupils Vomiting Bloodshot eyes Salivation Fast or slow heart rates Low body temperature Vocalization
“It’s also important for pet owners to tell their veterinarian exactly what their pet ingested in order to get a proper diagnosis. There are tests to find out how much THC is in your pet’s system, however, they take time and are impractical, according to VCA Canada.
“Your veterinarian may make your pet vomit to get the cannabis out of their system, assuming it was discovered soon enough after your pet ate it, however, this may not work. VCA Canada says in some cases the toxin may already be in your pet’s system, and cannabis has “an anti-emetic effect that inhibits vomiting.” Vets may also decide to pump your pet’s stomach or give them activated charcoal to treat the poisoning.
“If vomiting doesn’t work or is not a viable option, VCA Canada says veterinarians will provide supportive care until the effects of the cannabis wear off. This may include medication or intravenous fluids to help prevent dehydration, support blood pressure, and maintain organ function. Vets may also use anti-anxiety medication or gastrointestinal treatments to minimize your pet’s discomfort.
“To prevent self-trauma while your pet is disoriented and uncoordinated, confinement in a safe, comfortable space is helpful. Noise should be kept to a minimum to decrease sensory stimulation,” VCA Canada said in a post on its website. “If cannabis is ingested with toxic or problematic substances, such as xylitol, chocolate, raisins, or foods containing a lot of fat, supportive care or additional treatments may be required to treat conditions associated with the ingestion of those substances.”
“VCA Canada adds you can prevent pet poisonings by keeping marijuana products in places your pet cannot reach them. If you smoke marijuana, keep your pets in a separate, well-ventilated room away from smoke. VCA Canada says pets will be tempted to eat cannabis or other things that are toxic to them if they can get to it.
“If you think your pet may have eaten cannabis products take them to a veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital right away.”
Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM; Lynn Buzhardt, DVM reported on Cannabis (Marijuana) Intoxication in Cats and Dogs, covering additional information and can be found at this link.