Now that marijuana is being legalized in many places, veterinarians will most likely see an increase in instances wherein pets ingest weed accidentally. As a pet owner, what should you do when these things happen? How does marijuana affect your pets and the effects of marijuana on pets?
We see a lot of discussions, debates, and questions regarding the use of marijuana among humans being done. What about marijuana and pets? For some, it may sound a little odd at first, but some research conducted on the effects of marijuana on pets shows that there could be therapeutic effects on them as well, similar to the effects on humans.
Pets and CBD Oil
For one, it should be understood that marijuana, in the form of CBD oil, is also being used in some instances to treat certain ailments on pets. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is extracted from cannabis plants. The oil contains zero to minimum Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. THC is the psychoactive substance found in marijuana that makes users high. This means that if a pet ingests CBD oil, whether through medication or accidentally, they will not experience the same high and the side effects that would be expected if they ingest marijuana.
Benefits of Marijuana on Pets
In the United States, varying levels of marijuana legality is now being set in place. Certain states have legalized it for medicinal purposes first, while others have completely opened their doors for recreational purposes as well. Despite legal acceptance, there are still some shifts as to how people view marijuana, and it seems that it has become ever more mainstream than before.
Humans rely on the use of marijuana, or at least its specific compounds, for a wide range of benefits. For one, marijuana is found useful in humans, especially those who are seeking relief from anxiety, chronic pain, depression, as well as several other symptoms and conditions.
What does this mean on dogs then? One thing that needs to be understood at this point is that even though there are potential benefits of using marijuana derivatives, marijuana, in its purest form, should not be given to pets. Pets can also get high if they eat weed. It could be dangerous and scary for them.
Among the most common symptoms experienced by most pets that are exposed to weed accidentally include mild to severe complications, as well as toxicity. The toxicity of marijuana among pets requires attention and emergency treatment.
Effects of Marijuana on Pets
Let’s take a look first as to how marijuana toxicity can affect pets. The moment that a dog gets “high”, the experience is more intense than that experienced by humans. While humans feel the pleasure out of the feeling, it is already a state of distress for the pet. Among the signs of a pet having been exposed to weed may include dribbling urine, strange walking, falling over while standing, dilated pupils, low blood pressure, or being easily started by movements and sounds.
The reason for this has something to do with the physical makeup of animals. Animals, domestic pets, in particular, have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains.
If you are smoking marijuana at home, it is also important to be cautious of the potential effects of weed on dogs. Your pet may also get what is termed as “contact high”, which comes as a result of secondhand smoke. It may result in respiratory issues on your pet while causing distress on them at the same time. Your pets will not necessarily die from being exposed to marijuana, but they may if they ingest an edible that comes with high THC concentration, or if the edible contains chocolate.
How Do Pets Become Intoxicated?
There are several ways in which your beloved pets could get intoxicated. One is by inhaling secondhand smoke, directly ingesting cannabis in any form, eating edibles (baked goods containing cannabis). Most of these exposures are accidental, usually happening when curious pets get access to the storage of these drugs, or when they are also present in the same area where a person is smoking weed.
Since pets have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains, the effects of cannabis are potentially more toxic and more dramatic compared to humans. Just a small amount of weed can already cause toxicity among pets.
Regardless of the exposure method, complete and accurate information is very important when it comes to treating the pets successfully. For instance, a ‘weed brownie’ ingestion needs to be treated differently compared with inhalation, since the brownie contains chocolate, and thus treatment should be done for both chocolate and cannabis toxicity. Inhalation, on the other hand, may also need a different treatment for respiratory irritation.
Are Pets Attracted to Weed?
Yes. Pets are not designed to tell which food is good for them or not. They mainly act based on instinct. In fact, it has been found that pets ingest both raw marijuana leaf and “edibles”, referring to food that is infused with marijuana. Dogs can get high from consuming marijuana. This is something that is not necessarily fine. When humans consume marijuana, they understand what they have signed up for. This is no way the case for pets, and as a result, they can end up becoming sick.
How Toxic is Marijuana?
Marijuana is regarded as having a high margin of safety among people, though not all. Similarly, not all pets react to intoxication in the same way. A small dosage may affect one pet more compared to another, which means that there is no guaranteed safe level of exposure. Different factors come into play, such as differences in health status, age, and body size when it comes to determining toxicity differences.
The good news, though, is that cannabis intoxication is rarely fatal. An average weed cigarette only contains around 150 mg of THC. The minimum oral dose of THC that is considered lethal is relatively high, though deaths have been observed after ingesting foods that contain a high concentration of cannabis, such as those with medical-grade THC content. As a matter of fact, deaths were very rare until medical-grade products were developed.
Signs of Cannabis Intoxication Among Pets
Most signs of intoxication are considered as neurological. Pets may be seen as uncoordinated and wobbly. They may be disoriented, hyperactive and very noisy. They may also be observed as having dilated pupils, giving them that wild-eyed look. They may excessively drool, or even vomit. Urinary incontinence may also be observed. In extreme cases, seizures, tremors, and even coma may happen.
Other physical signs may also include elevated or low heart rate and blood pressure, as well as slowed breathing rate. Lethargy, as well as increase and decrease in body temperature, can also happen. The good thing though is that those effects are fairly temporary, though they can still prove to be dangerous to your pets.
How to Diagnose and Treat Intoxication
Diagnosis is typically based on clinical signs and accurate history. Even though there may be tests that need to be done to determine the THC level in the urine of pets, the results can take time, making them highly impractical. Drug-screening tests for human urine are faster but may not be applicable and dependable on pets. Diagnosis is also conducted quickly, and treatment initiated when pet owners offer accurate information about the pet’s exposure.
To treat the intoxication effectively, knowing how the toxin works inside the body is helpful. The moment toxin enters the body of pets, the first line of defense involves getting it out right away. If the toxicity is noticed right after ingestion, veterinarians may induce vomiting to further prevent toxin absorption.
Two factors may come into play regarding this natural defensive strategy. First, toxicity signs may only manifest after the drug has been absorbed. This means that it is already present and circulating in the system. Second, cannabis comes with anti-emetic effects that inhibit vomiting. In serious cases, the stomach may be pumped, and activated charcoal may be administered every 6 to 8 hours in order to neutralize toxins. Enemas may also be done to reduce the absorption of toxins from the Gastro-Intestinal Tract.
The body’s second line of defense against toxicity involves giving supportive care until all of the effects wear off. Supportive care and medications may be given to regulate the respiration, heart rate, and body temperature of pets. Since pets may be lethargic, without any appetite to it, IV fluids may be administered to prevent dehydration, maintain organ function and support blood pressure.
To prevent self-trauma as the pet is uncoordinated and disoriented, confinement in a comfortable and safe space is also helpful. As much as possible, noise should be minimized to decrease potential sensory stimulation.
Since cannabis is still considered illegal in certain locations, and of course, other people may still judge you for having it, it is understandable that pet owners may feel afraid or ashamed of possible legal consequences. For this reason, some are afraid to take their pets to the veterinarian. Reality dictates that the more honest a pet owner is about potential ingestion of cannabis, the less need for diagnostic testing will be in order to run or even rule out a metabolic or neurologic cause. This means that treatment can start faster.
How is Treatment Done?
If you bring your pet to your vet within one or two hours after marijuana ingestion, the vet may induce vomiting. This can be effective if marijuana has not yet been absorbed. If the pet exhibits more serious symptoms, it means that THC has already been absorbed and digested, which means that it is already too late to induce vomiting.
If induced vomiting does not work, then supportive care or intravenous fluids can help in diluting and flushing the toxins, thus decreasing the absorption rate further. A blood test, as well as other diagnostic tests, may also be done to rule out other toxins, as well as other neurologic or metabolic diseases.
If your pet is not able to stand up, there might be a need to admit your pet to the hospital. In rare extreme cases, an IV lipid or fat may be administered. Cannabis is fat-soluble, and it seems that lipid injection will help in trapping or absorbing the cannabis in the fat.
Since THC, as a substance, is a depressant that works in suppressing gag reflexes, your dog cannot vomit, thus resulting in respiratory failure. If the lungs have been damaged physically because of inhaling or aspirating vomit, it may take several days to heal. This can be fatal in the long run. This may happen similar to ingesting poison, or a complication of surgery.
When it comes to marijuana use and pets, care should be taken into account. It is similar to having children at home. Make sure that you keep all forms of cannabis, whether recreational or medical, out of reach of your pets. This means that you need to make sure that your weed is carefully stored in high locked drawers or high cabinets when not in use.
When using marijuana at home, it is best to keep your pets in a well-ventilated or separate room, away from potential access to second-hand smoke. Take note that your pets have a good sense of smell, and thus will be tempted to eat edibles, or even consume weed directly, if all possible.
If you start noticing suspicious behavior in your pets and you are thinking that cannabis exposure is a possibility, hurry and take your beloved pet to your veterinarian, or the nearest possible source of treatment.
Also, while new areas of potential research are being done regarding marijuana use on pets, it is important never to try and medicate your pet with any type of cannabis product unless you discuss it with your veterinarian first. Most likely, veterinarians will not recommend such medication until more research is approved.