Pot for Pets

The New York Times recently announced that via executive action, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will relax the laws governing medical marijuana use in the state. New York State has some of the most restrictive and punitive laws regarding illegal drug usage, hold-overs from the Rockefeller era drug laws of the 1970s, and many feel these changes are long overdue. What does this mean for pets?

Increased Toxicity Cases Veterinarians in New York State will need to be prepared to treat more dogs with marijuana intoxication if the experience in Colorado holds true here. Colorado is a state where medical marijuana is legal. Veterinarians in Colorado studied the number of dogs experiencing inadvertent toxicity from ingestion of marijuana. These researchers found a four-fold increase in the number of dogs treated for marijuana ingestion over a five year period. The increase paralleled the increase in the number of registered users of medical marijuana in Colorado. Pet Poison Helpline reports an increase in calls about canine marijuana intoxication as well.

Dog OD Ingestion of marijuana, marijuana containing foods or inhalation of marijuana smoke can affect dogs; they become glassy eyed, uncoordinated, and may be very sleepy. These dogs need intravenous fluids to maintain hydration and warming blankets to maintain their body temperature. Often, dogs intoxicated by marijuana dribble urine. Some dogs become hyperactive. Severely affected dogs may seizure or become comatose requiring ventilator treatment until they regain the ability to breathe. Dogs typically recover in one to three days. Sadly, the study of Colorado cases of marijuana reports the death of two dogs ingesting baked goods made with medical grade tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) butter.

Iguana Intoxication! Although dogs are the most commonly affected by marijuana intoxication, I found a report of three intoxicated iguanas. The iguanas had clinical signs similar to intoxicated dogs – seizures, stomach upset and one even required antiseizure medication. All three recovered fully.

Veterinary Medical Marijuana So with marijuana legalized in some states for medicinal purposes, is medical marijuana for Fluffy and Fido next? Despite the obvious risks outlined above, some pet owners have taken marijuana for pets into their own hands. Currently marijuana belongs to the group of drugs most tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Even though I have a license to prescribe some controlled substances, marijuana is not on the list of those I can prescribe. This tight regulation also restricts research with marijuana. Research is needed to help veterinarians understand what conditions the drug helps and how to use the drug safely and efficaciously in veterinary patients. So for now, I don’t know how to appropriately dose THC in my patients and I can’t do it legally.

If your pet inadvertently ingests marijuana or a THC containing product:

1. Keep marijuana and medical marijuana products out of reach of your pets.

2. Call animal poison control if you think your pet has eaten marijuana:

  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435
  • Pet Poison Helpline (800) 213-6680

3. Tell the animal ER what your pet ate. Making the ER veterinarians play a guessing game about your pet’s condition can delay appropriate treatment.

3 thoughts on “Pot for Pets”

  1. thank you for sharing this information and good to know, another item to add to the do not give our pets. will pencil it on my sticker that lists the 10 foods poisons to dogs.

    1. That’s not what the article says. it doesn’t say “pot is poison for your dog.” It says, clearly, that the safe dosage for dogs, and other pets, is not known.

      Chocolate is poison to your dog because they process the theobromine found in chocolate much, much more slowly than humans. But they need to eat a fair amount to be affected. Fido licking your fingers after you eat a kit kat bar will not harm him.

      Garlic is toxic to dogs…but in doses only available in the kitchens of modestly stocked Italian restaurants. A clove of garlic will not kill your pet.

      So can we not panic? Yes, there are things toxic to dogs. But the devil is in the dosage. By that standard Cheetos are toxic, too, btw. To EVERYONE. Marijuana is also toxic to everyone in high enough doses, but a growing number of vets are starting to come out saying there can be enormous be benefits from medical marijuana for pets. But dosage is tricky. That SEEMS to be a line of thought buried somewhere in this article.

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