[marijuana]Seek Veterinary Care for Pets Exposed to Marijuana

Now that marijuana is legal within the state of Illinois, we anticipate an increase in pet toxicities within our clinic. Over the past six years the Pet Poison Hotline has seen more than a 450% increase in cannabis toxicities across the U.S. Within Chicago and Illinois, I expect to see more pets exposed to cannabis toxicosis now that the drug is legally available. As a result of edible marijuana products, many of these cases involve co-toxicities with chocolate and/or raisins in addition to cannabis toxicity.

There are three main categories of cannabinoids. THC, commonly referred to as marijuana, is the cannabinoid that is most commonly associated with toxicity. CDB, or the non-psychogenic cannabinoid, has a much wider safety margin and is currently being researched as to its true efficacy for both pain and seizure control. While CBD appears to be very safe, there is limited science regarding safety, efficacy, and purity of products. The third form is synthetic cannabinoids, which are illegal recreational drugs in all states and cause the most severe clinical signs.

CBD Oil Cautions

While there is limited research around CBD, many pet owners and companies feel there are positive benefits of its use. I recommend using caution because there is very little control over the market and thus the purity of the products can be extremely variable. Dr. Bill Gurley looked at 25 CBD products available in Mississippi. The products were analyzed, and the results were compared to the label claim. In many cases there was no detectable CBD present and in other cases there was a much larger percentage of CBD than the label stated. One product had CBD concentration 2000% higher than the label claim.

The lack of regulation can pose a risk for pets. Additionally, there is some early research that high doses of CBD may result in hepatic toxicity and increase liver values in mice. It is unknown if similar effects are seen in cats and dogs, but many believe they may experience similar side effects. The research is conducted by Drs. Igor Koturbash and Bill Gurley at the University of Arkansas School of Public health. To read their abstract click the link below: https://publichealth.uams.edu/departmentsandunits/centers/cdsr/research/

Signs of Marijuana Toxicity

Animals exposed to any cannabinoids may experience adverse effects. Animals that have been exposed to marijuana can experience many of the signs seen in people, but the most commonly seen signs include drowsiness, depressed mentation, ataxic gait (wobbly), and urinary incontinence (dribbling urine). Less commonly pets can experience vomiting and diarrhea. In severe toxicities hyperactivity, hyperthermia, and seizures have been reported.

Pets that are exposed to synthetic cannabinoids usually have more severe effects.

Additionally, some of the most severe toxicities result from ingestion of edibles resulting in co-toxicities. If you think your pet has been exposed to marijuana, have your pet assessed immediately so appropriate steps may be taken to care for your pet. These steps may include decontamination, activated charcoal administration, and monitoring of respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. The steps will likely be different for each case, depending on the level of toxic exposure, the type of exposure, the time frame post exposure, and the clinical signs currently being experienced by the pet.

Keep Weed Out of Pet’s Reach

So the moral of the story is to keep all marijuana products out of reach of your pets and use CBD with caution. I have spoken with a lot of owners who are currently using CBD products and they have varying opinions. In some cases owners report huge improvements, but more commonly they see little to no improvement. I have not observed major side effects of CBD products in pets, but please use caution. If you ever suspect your pet is having adverse effects, please discuss with your veterinarian and have your pet examined.

Dr. Drew Sullivan
Medical Director