Cannabis and Your Pet

There has been much controversy around whether or not marijuana is safe to use on pets. With the recent legalization and marijuana use at a new “high” owners have been more likely to treat their pet’s ailments with CBD oil. So the question is, is marijuana safe and effective to use in companion animals?

Preclinical studies in rodents suggest potential therapeutic effects, but because our medical research is limited. There is no concrete scientific evidence proven that CBD oil can be used to treat conditions effectively. CBD is a non-psychoactive derivative from marijuana that has been reported in humans to treat anxiety, pain, nausea and epilepsy. It is unclear if they produce the same effects in animals. Pet owners tend to move towards using CBD oil when they think a prescribed medication isn’t working or that there are better, more natural alternatives. The problem with this is the medication prescribed by the veterinarian is prescribed for a reason. Unlike CBD, there are well-documented drugs, and we know the correct doses to administer so that toxicities do not occur. Due to our lack of knowledge on CBD, veterinarians are unable to prescribe or recommend doses. Here are some ideas to discuss with your veterinarian if you’re having trouble with medications:

  1. For Anxiety: Focus on training such as agility or behaviour. There is also a canine pheromone spray called Adaptil that is known to calm your dog and is available at your veterinary clinic.
  2. For Decreased Appetite: If your pet loses weight or stops eating for 24 hours, see a vet. However, if appetite is slightly decreased, try offering plain rice, boiled chicken or hamburger, or probiotic supplements designed for animals such as Fortiflora.
  3. For Arthritis: Prescription joint diets, physical therapy, and acupuncture are great ways to help ease the pain.

Medical marijuana, in itself, is harmful because it has psychoactive properties such as THC. Animals have a difficult time metabolizing THC and can cause the animals to present symptoms of toxicity. These signs include lethargy, seizures/tremoring, difficulty walking, vomiting, and in severe cases, it can result in a coma or death. The onset of these signs occur within minutes to hours and can last for days, depending on the dose. Usually, the more severe cases are when animals ingest edibles that include additional toxic ingredients such as chocolate or artificial sugars like xylitol. These can lead to worsening toxic conditions. It is important to inform your veterinarian if you suspected that your pet has ingested of the drug, this will help your veterinarian to provide the supportive care needed.

Keep pets safe from marijuana toxicity; it is imperative not to make the drug easily accessible. All cannabis products should be placed in a secure container and kept out of reach. It is best to not smoke around your pets because they are more sensitive and can be affected by the second-hand smoke. It is also recommended that owners get a certificate of analysis which clearly states how much CBD is in the product and to ensure it is not tainted with THC or other harmful substances. Most importantly, being able to recognize the signs of toxicity (as discussed in the paragraph above) will increase the chance of your pet receiving treatment sooner and in turn, a better prognosis.

Here’s a step-by-step guide that can be used to treat marijuana poisoning in your dog:

  1. Call your veterinarian, explain your situation and follow their advice.
  2. Induce vomiting based on veterinarian’s recommendations.
  3. Try to relax your dog and observe all symptoms present during this process.
  4. Go to the vet.

If you find yourself in a medical emergency, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help with poison emergencies.

Written by: Sabrina Fagan, RVT