The surge in pot-dog cases
While legalization has not led to any human health epidemics wherever cannabis use is authorized, it might be sparking a widespread epidemic among dogs. Marijuana in all forms is noxious to dogs. Dogs can exhibit symptoms of marijuana intoxication akin to those exhibited by humans. However, since they’re an inferior species compared to humans, their organs do not stand up to pot toxicity like ours.
Pot toxicity can be fatal to even humans, and definitely to dogs. The difference, however, is that dogs are more likely to suffer pot toxicity. Ingestion can induce respiratory suppression and low blood pressure, and that can be lethal.
This is bad news for dogs, given the emergence of a salient correlation between increase in human cannabis use and an increase in pot dog emergencies in places where cannabis is legal.
According to a report by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the number of marijuana-related pet emergencies, which amounted to only 208 in the last decade, ballooned to 1,800 in 2018.
But dogs don’t smoke cannabis, so how does this happen? Here’s a suggestion: In place where cannabis is legal, it’s now commonplace to find marijuana trash strewn around in both public and private spaces, including parks, walkways, and especially homes. And because dogs have a knack for eating things unscrupulously, they’re now many times more likely to ingest pot than ever before.
Cannabis toxicity in pets. Source
The possible side effects of cannabis ingestion in pets
All forms of marijuana products are dangerous to pets. However, the danger depends on the dosage. For instance, edible cannabis products are much more dangerous than marijuana leaves because they come with much higher concentrations of THC and take a while to kick in, making over-consumption a likelihood and resulting in high dosages. To boot, many cannabis edibles also contain chocolate -- a total no-no for dogs.
Tinctures and pot butter (cannabis-infused butter used for baking) also pose greater risks.
With a significant dosage of cannabis in their system, pets can exhibit pot toxicity symptoms such as:
- Staggering gaits -- just like in humans
- Poor movement coordination
- Uncontrolled urination
- Dilated pupils
- Hypersensitivity -- the dog overreacts to stimuli of sight, sound and smell
Dr. Daniel Hebert of Duxuby Aminal Hospital noted that dogs can also get the “munchies” while coming out of a pot-dog episode.
In the worst case, dogs can exhibit far more fatal symptoms such as:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Respiratory suppression
- Brain tumors
- Neurological disorders
How to handle a pet-related cannabis emergency
Clinical symptoms usually manifest after 30 - 90 minutes of ingestion. However, the symptoms might grow worse with every passing minute. If there’s marijuana in the environment and your pet begins to behave abnormally, there’s a sound reason to suspect pot toxicity.
If you suspect your pet has accidentally ingested marijuana, you can confirm your suspicions without waiting for the symptoms to go full-blown by testing it using an over-the-counter human drug test. These tests usually generate accurate results within 5 - 10 minutes.
After confirming the intoxication, the best way to deal with the situation is to whisk your pet away to the veterinarian immediately.
It’s not a vet’s duty to report cases of ingestion of illicit drugs to the authorities, so there’s no reason to fear being reported to the authorities for possessing marijuana or any illicit drug when dealing with drug-related emergencies.
Options for treatment -- the pot-dog example
A veterinarian’s first response to a pot dog emergency is to try and remove all the marijuana residues in your dog’s body. If you’re able to get your dog to your veterinarian within 30 minutes after the ingestion, the vet can induce vomiting to get rid of as much of the marijuana as possible to prevent absorption that brings about toxicity. It’s not advisable to try inducing the vomit on your own, as that might lead to even more life-threatening complications like choking or aspiration.
Have your pet checked out by a vet in case of an emergency. Source
If the cannabis has been ingested for much longer, the vet might use a treatment called Intravenous Lipid Fusion Therapy. In this therapy, fat cells that bond to marijuana particles are introduced into the blood, and then through urination the fat cells are flushed out of the dog’s system together with the marijuana particles that bond to them. This therapy might require the hospitalization of your pet for 12 -24 hours, with close monitoring of its vital signs.
The cannabis affected pet problem is a real one. Cannabis has become a widely available drug, and it’s legal in several countries now. Even where it isn’t legal, it is still widely available. This availability means more access for not just humans but their pets also. With cannabis remains and preparation materials littering the streets and homes, pets can easily consume the rug, leading to pot toxicity. In such a situation, a timely visit to the vet can help you overcome your pet emergency before it becomes fatal. You can rest in the fact that despite the growing number of cases, there’s hardly been any fatality.