Cannabis and pets: the risks of THC

by | General Pet Care Interesting |

It was a typical Wednesday at the Goldson residence. Lynda was outside cleaning up the yard, while her dogs, Bruce and Jasper, played nearby.

“We weren’t outside for very long when I found Bruce laying on the lawn. I was calling to him and he wasn’t moving,” says Lynda Goldson.

Bruce was unresponsive. “I thought he was dead,” says Lynda, “It was scary. When he finally did get up, he couldn’t walk straight. I was just very concerned; I thought he was having a seizure or a stroke.”

Lynda says she called her vet and with Bruce’s condition continuing to decline, she took him to the clinic right away. During the drive, Bruce whimpered in the back seat. “I didn’t know what was wrong with him,” says Lynda.

A urine sample informed the vet that Bruce had ingested THC, the principal psychoactive component of cannabis. Bruce was transported to a larger medical facility in Barrie to be treated for ingesting THC – a poisonous substance for animals to ingest.

At the time, Lynda says she had no idea how her pup found the cannabis. Later, it was determined that Bruce ingested an edible product containing THC, most likely discarded by a recreational drug user.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, THC has a moderate level of toxicity for pets, and the other components in edibles can be quite sickening or potentially fatal, such as pot brownies, which can also cause chocolate toxicity.

Lynda made the right choice by taking Bruce to the vet immediately. “In all cases, it’s important to consult your veterinarian on the best course of action as soon as a potential ingestion/exposure is suspected or found,” says Dr. Llera, a small animal veterinarian from Kingston, Ont. who shared her advice in our Marijuana & Your Pets blog.

Dr. Lawrence Woodley from the Georgina Veterinary Clinic spoke with us in March about the effects of legalization on our pets. He says dehydration and neurological issues are the main health concerns for animals who ingest marijuana.

“Most pets are able to sleep off the drug, but it all depends on the amount of marijuana consumed. In order to prescribe the appropriate treatment, it is helpful when pet owners can inform their veterinarian on which type and how much marijuana their pet may have consumed,” he adds.

Dr. Llera says the effects of cannabis toxicity can vary widely among pets, but some examples of symptoms to watch for if you are concerned your furry friend may have ingested the drug are a lack of coordination, dilated pupils, slower heart rate, and dribbling of urine.

After Bruce’s traumatic experience with edibles, which occurred on his birthday no less, Lynda  urges recreational drug users to store and dispose of cannabis products responsibly.

“If you have edibles in the house, put it someplace where the dog can’t get it,” she pleads.


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