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 LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
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.
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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 :
- Can ease chronic and acute pain
- Helps with anxiety
- Good anti-nausea
- Helps with epilepsy
- Helps fight cancer and prevents it as well
- Helps Parkinson’s and Alzheimer patients
- Very effective appetite stimulant
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!
A VETERINARIAN POINT OF VIEW
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 to What 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 IF MY DOG OR CAT ATE WEED?
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.
Here are some symptoms of intoxication with THC :
SYMPTOMS IN DOGS :
- Lethargy, somnolence
- Lack of coordination or voluntary movements
- Urinary incontinence
SYMPTOMS IN CATS :
- Increased locomotor activity (spontaneous jumping behaviour)
- Swaying from side to side
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.
WHAT ABOUT CBD?
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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