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Protecting Pets from Marijuana

Photo: Courtesy of Charlie Deets

As states legalize recreational marijuana for recreation, marijuana poisoning is becoming a problem for pets. Veterinarians are still studying the drug’s effects on animals.

As marijuana becomes legal around the United States, cannabis-derived pet products also become more widely available. However, veterinarians and clients alike face new challenges in understanding and navigating this fast-growing industry.

Cannabis-based products

Currently, there are no cannabidiol (CBD) products for pets that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

A limited number of studies indicate that CBD products may have some clinical value for treating certain conditions in animals; however, the research is still in its infancy. There are many unknowns, including how these products act in animals, how they react with other drugs, and how much they should take.

Currently, the American Veterinary Medical Association continues to encourage well-controlled clinical research and pursuit of FDA approval so that high-quality CBD products with known safety and efficacy can be made available to veterinarians for their patients.

If you are considering using CBD products for your pet, the AVMA strongly encourages you to talk to your veterinarian first.

Marijuana and pets

More than half of the United States have passed legislation permitting medicinal use of marijuana in humans under strict guidelines. Marijuana is fully legal in a dozen states. But marijuana affects pets very differently than it does people.

The high-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol in marijuana can make dogs and cats scared and sick—sometimes seriously so—as evidenced by growing calls to animal poison control centers. In 2019, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center reported a 765 percent increase in calls about marijuana ingestion by animals compared to a year earlier. Anecdotally, veterinarians have reported an increased number of pets coming into their clinics with signs of marijuana intoxication.

When an animal ingests marijuana (especially through edibles), signs of toxicity include depression, dribbling urine, vomiting, lack of coordination, sleepiness or excitation, hypersalivation, dilated pupils, low blood pressure, low body temperature, and seizures. If you have these products and your pet is showing any of these signs, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

There is no antidote for marijuana poisoning in a pet, so veterinarians provide supportive care, such as hydration and administering activated charcoal to decrease further absorption of ingested marijuana. Fortunately, as long as proper care is provided, a majority of patients recover. Death is rare, but there have been a few reported, particularly when other toxins, like chocolate and xylitol, are involved. If your pet has been exposed, the best thing to do is to get to a veterinarian immediately.

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