While cannabis & cannabinoid products have medicinal benefits for humans, not enough research has been done on animals to establish known safety guidelines such as dosages and possible species differences. Research specific to pets is just beginning, and hopefully, soon, there will be safe options for the treatment of pets.
Cannabis contains more than 100 cannabinoids, compounds that react with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Our Murrieta hospital’s Medical Director, Dr. Sarah Hoggan explains because pets have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains than humans, the effects of cannabis on pets are more dramatic and potentially more toxic. “The amount may also affect one pet more than another, and the differences in the pet’s age, size, quantity ingested, and current health can also impact toxicity levels,” shared the Medical Director.
If you have cannabis at home, Dr. Hoggan says to treat it like any other prescription drug kept in the house. Store it out of sight and reach. “Pets have a strong sense of smell and will seek out edible food items. And edibles often contain other hidden ingredients like chocolate and artificial sweeteners, such as Xylitol. These are items that can be even more toxic to pets creating a double whammy,” Dr. Hoggan added. Sometimes, the ingredients in the cannabis product are a “proprietary blend” and are purposefully not listed in full.
Place pets in a separate, well‑ventilated room away from second-hand smoke. When disposing of a burnt joint’s remaining ends, make sure the trash container is inaccessible to persistent pets.
The most common side effects cited by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s database are:
- Urinary Incontinence
- Faster or slower heart rate
Symptoms can start 30 to 90 minutes after exposure and last up to 72 hours. If you suspect cannabis exposure in your pet or notice signs of intoxication, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Be upfront with your vet, letting them know of cannabis exposure and how. “The sooner we know, the sooner we can proceed with the appropriate treatment saving precious time and money. For example, if we know the pet consumed a “pot brownie,” we would focus on treating both chocolate and cannabis toxicity. If the pet became toxic through smoke inhalation, then we might need to provide additional treatment for respiratory irritation,” shared Dr. Hoggan.