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by Veronique Fournier June 10, 2019 5 min read6 Comments
Marijuana, weed, cannabis, ganja, pot, herb...
I am talking here about the dried leaves and flowers of hemp plants.
Cannabis is well known for its psychoactive effects on people when smoked or ingested, and for it’s therapeutic applications.
Could your dog benefit from medicinal marijuana too? Could your cat get high if he accidentally eats weed?
You’re about to find out.
A few thousand years ago, mankind was already cultivating cannabis for different purposes. Our ancestors would make the most of every part of the plant : the flowers and the leaves were used as a medicine, the stems and stalks as a fiber and the seeds as a source of protein.
There weren’t many more concerns reported about this plant before the 19th century. It started to be described as a poison during the early 20th century and became illegal pretty much everywhere after that.
Minds are starting to open up again today regarding this fascinating plant. A few states legalized cannabis in the last years and all Canada last october.
I am sure you heard about people using marijuana as a medicine. It is not uncommon.
Cannabis have been described to be helpful in many circumstances :
Even if cannabis has been proven to help humans through different studies, these cannot be applied directly to dogs and cats. Their brain act quite differently than ours. Past experimentations resumes about marijuana and animals indicate only it’s toxic effects on them.
More research is now being financed and we are starting to learn about the medicinal applications of cannabis for pets. But research takes time, a lot of time, and we are not there yet.
A single study can take up to 15 years to be completed. Our pets will need to be patient!
It is not legal for a veterinarian to prescribe medicinal marijuana for an animal, even in a state or country where it is legal for humans. Even if the animal is suffering from terminal cancer or is experiencing seizures, there is no guideline yet regarding a safe dosage for them, and the benefits are still unknown.
In some states, it is even unethical to even recommend it. Veterinarians, even if they are open to the idea, could lose their license or worse, go to jail, if they prescribe this plant today.
More information will need to be gathered before cannabis get used legally into the veterinary world.
So far, all we know for sure is that your dog and your cat CAN get high and that can become quickly dramatic.
In the next paragraphs, I will explain you how weed can affect your furry friend.
As mentioned, dogs and cats have a brain anatomically different than humans, no surprise there.Dogs have more cannabinoid receptors than humans. That suggests that they are a lot more susceptible to cannabis toxic effects.
Intoxication in pets usually follows the ingestion of cannabis, but a mild intoxication can also follow a second-hand smoke exposure.
During this last year working in a veterinary clinic, I’ve seen a dozen cases of severe intoxication with THC in dogs. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main component in marijuana responsible for its psychoactive effects.
I remember a little puppy that could not even stand up, barely breathing, vomiting, he was in really bad shape. After testing his urine, we found out he was intoxicated with THC. We talked with the owners and they admit seeing the puppy eating a stub on the ground a few hours before the symptoms had appeared.
So I can tell you from experience that a very small amount of weed can be very dangerous, depending on the plant strain and the size of the dog. The puppy is fine now, thankfully!
There was a study completed in two veterinary hospitals in Colorado recently. Its goal was to assess if there were more poisonings with THC in dogs, now that marijuana was legalized in that state. It showed that they received four times more cases than before the legalization. Two of these intoxicated dogs passed away after ingesting edibles made out of weed butter.
I will share with you another story before I answer toWhat if my dog or cat ate weed?.
One day, two dogs from the same household came to the clinic where I work showing intoxication symptoms. These dogs have been seen eating excrement by the side of a trail in the woods a few hours before. The urine test showed that they were both intoxicated with THC.
Moral of the story is, if you are a marijuana consumer and nature calls when you are hiking, know that THC is found in feces and can be dangerous for dogs with weird habits. Please, bury your belongings.
Again, the dogs survived, but it was an expensive day of treatments.
What does a stoned dog or cat looks like? It might surprise you. I am sure we all have in mind the same image of a smiling dog with his eyes half closed. But reality is quite different.
Any animal experiencing these symptoms should be seen immediately by a veterinarian, especially if you have doubts or know these could be related to the consumption of cannabis. If you know your dog or cat ate weed, share the information to the veterinary team so they can help your companion better and faster.
There are hundreds of different compounds found in the cannabis plant. THC and CBD are the most prominent and almost identical on a molecular level. Although they are very similar, they do not interact with our brain receptors the same way.
Basically, CBD will deliver many of the same health benefits as THC, but without the psychoactive effects. This is why it is preferred by many, and even tried for pets.
Because it’s all new, it’s hard to say if it works. However, it hasn’t been shown to do any harm. Even if it is very popular these days, it still has to be used carefully.
If you ever decide to go down the CBD route with your animal to help ease some symptoms, I would recommend the advice of a veterinarian to find a safe labelled products that surely contains no THC.
I hope I helped you understand a bit more about the mechanics of this fascinating plant. It is still a controversial subject, but also very interesting!
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ANIMAL HEALTH TECHNICIAN
Véronique Fournier uses her extensive knowledge to write articles about pet health for Zumalka.
She earned her degree in Animal Health from Cégep La Pocatière in Quebec. Her experience includes internships on animal production farms and rehabilitating birds of prey; managing the care of up to 100 wild animals in a day at the SOS Miss Dolittle Refuge; working at the Aquarium of Quebec, where she monitored 10,000 animals of 300 different species. She worked as a chief animal health technician in a veterinary clinic in British Columbia, as well as a few contracts in various other veterinary clinics.
She also makes lots of canine friends by volunteering at local shelters, fostering, and dog sitting for friends.
November 07, 2019
I do not agree with this article either. I encourage the author to do more research. The cases you speak of are obvious cases of overdose and not small medicinal quantities that are extremely helpful to pets in pain and with all kinds of other issues.
August 30, 2019
I purchased treats for my dog who has the worst separation anxiety ever. They are called Happy Hempy Puppy. lol, I have fed them to her before I crate her and leave and she is so much calmer. She never had any ill effects from them, the only thing she did was want to eat when I got back. She apparently had the munchies. They were a life saver and i am sure better for her than the addictive anxiety meds the vet wanted to give her and 60 buckx for a bottle of only 30 pills. I also had a pit/lab mix who was 18 yrs old and had hip and joint issues, He moved much better while “under the influence of thc” Now maybe these dogs had an allergic reaction? Maybe they were given way too much, but I have seen many a dog actually stand and inhale a shotgun from pot smoke, and none died, none did any of the craziness i saw illustrated in this article. IDK who is wrong or right, I just know it helped my pups
June 17, 2019
Hello Alexxa and Peter.
Thank you for sharing you opinion about this controversial subject.
But THC and cannabis consumption in cat and dog has been proven toxic.
You can read more about is on the Pet Poison Helpline website :
We suggest to be careful and to abstain giving THC to pets.
Again thank you for your opinion, it matters to us!
June 17, 2019
I’m with Alexxa…
Untainted Cannabis, THC is not going to hurt any mammal.
My 10 tear old German Shepherd gets more relief from THC-A, than he does from CBD.
I recently put him on White Willow bark, and he’s as playful, and mobile like a young dog.
Both the CBD, and the THC-A, are grown organically in-house, without any pesticides.
June 13, 2019
I do not agree with your article
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November 07, 2019
Hi Ross and Alex, Thank you for your comments. For sure this article can be controversial, we understand. However, since the medical studies have not been fully finished, we do prefer letting all our fellow pet parents know the potential dangers. There is no denying the medicinal advantages of well made remedies without the side effects…. but all loving pet parents will also want to know any possible risks before purchase. Also, since Cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes in Quebec Canada, we want to avoid any pet parents trying to use this for their pets as there are very high risks involved.