Pets and Marijuana: Part 3
The most unforeseen demand in Colorado’s first year of adult use recreational marijuana sales was the new consumer’s appetite for edibles. Marijuana-infused edibles were originally anticipated to be a niche market, yet they ultimately accounted for 45 percent of all legal marijuana product sales in Colorado in 2014, an astronomical number by all accounts.
Tasty infused edibles with potent levels of psychoactive THC became a hot topic of debate. News headlines called on parents to prevent children from accidentally ingesting their sugar-laden marijuana edibles. This prompted intense debate over dosing guidelines, child-resistant packaging by manufacturers and safe storage of marijuana by responsible parents.
Adults now have easy access to potent and pungent marijuana and evidently man’s best friend is right on the owner’s heels. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, calls were up 200 percent in the last five years regarding marijuana ingestion by pets. Curious dogs are reportedly sniffing out and scarfing down their owner’s stashes in unprecedented numbers, landing pets in veterinary hospital emergency rooms with costly consequences.
Should pet owners be concerned if their pets eat marijuana? If dogs and cats have an endocannabinoid system like all mammals, what are the side effects of accidentally ingesting edibles? What should pet owners do if their dog accidentally eats an entire batch of marijuana brownies?
Statistically dogs account for 96 percent of all accidental marijuana ingestion by pets. If it is a common occurrence, is it really dangerous or are some pet owners overly concerned? Although known pet deaths from marijuana are extremely rare, consumption of butter fat may be a contributing factor. The level of concern for a dog’s well being depends on the weight of the animal, the cannabinoid potency and the volume of marijuana consumed.
Marijuana intoxication in dogs can be very disconcerting to a pet owner. Typical symptoms of THC ingestion can include ataxia (loss of coordination), sensory sensitivity, drowsiness, dilated pupils and urinary incontinence. More serious side effects may include tremors, seizures, vomiting, changes in heart rate and coma. For these reasons, and possibly more serious complications such as dehydration and aspiration, it is wise to contact your veterinarian immediately.
Professional concerns over pets and accidental marijuana consumption can vary, but veterinarians unanimously agree that chocolate is the most toxic ingredient in the tasty treat your dog may have just devoured. It is extremely serious, call your veterinarian immediately if your dog eats chocolate.
Theobromine found in dark chocolate is highly poisonous to dogs. It is so dangerous, in fact, that National Geographic has a chart to help calculate a dog’s toxic exposure to chocolate. But basically, the smaller the dog and the darker the chocolate, the more life threatening to the pet.
In recent decades marijuana cultivation and extractions have been elevated to an art and marijuana has become incredibly potent. Small bites of infused edibles made with concentrates can contain incredibly high doses of psychotropic THC. Packing for edibles is often labeled as containing multiple doses of 10 milligram servings. But as pet owners well know, dogs don’t eat just one dainty bite, they indiscriminately wolf down the whole treat.
But what threat does marijuana, and THC in particular, pose to a pet? If your dog eats 100 milligrams of THC is there a danger of death?
Hard science on pets and pot is difficult to come by. However, a 1973 study on the oral toxicity of cannabinoids in laboratory animals was conducted in which single doses, upwards of 3,000 milligrams of THC, were given to dogs and monkeys with nonlethal effects. To put this into perspective, that amount is 300 times greater than the recommended single serving dosage for humans.
Certainly an obscure study conducted in 1973 should not be the basis for treating your dog today who has eaten your marijuana flowers or edibles. The best course of action is to determine how much and when your dog ate the marijuana, being especially mindful of any possible chocolate or butter fat consumption. Consult your veterinarian to determine the proper course of action.
Your veterinarian may keep your dog for observation and stabilization while providing fluid therapy to prevent dehydration. In that case, you won’t be guiltily housebound for days playing puppy nurse to your hypersensitive best buddy who’s holed up under the bed, drooling and panting while sleeping off the buzz.
Take heart, within 72 hours most dogs make a complete recovery from their purple haze experience. And after receiving the vet’s bill, you may be motivated to find a safer place to store your stash.