The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Marijuana Can Be Quite Harmful to Our Four-Legged Friends: Learn the Signs of Marijuana Toxicity

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Marijuana Can Be Quite Harmful to Our Four-Legged Friends: Learn the Signs of Marijuana Toxicity

Marijuana can be quite harmful to our four-legged friends. Learn the signs of marijuana toxicity and what to do if your pet accidentally ingests the recreational drug.

Whether you live in a state where marijuana use has become legal or not, our pets may find a way to get their paws on the drug. It’s actually so common that Trupanion, a pet medical insurance company, has paid more than $78,000 in suspected marijuana claims to date. The drug, which acts as a depressant in humans, can adversely affect our pets if accidentally ingested. If you want to know what to do in the worst-case scenario, or you suspect your pet has already ingested marijuana, read on to find out what signs to look for and important actions you can take to protect him. 

If you suspect your pet has ingested marijuana, have him evaluated by a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

How Pets Get Exposed
One of the most common toxicities that vets at The Animal Medical Center's Emergency Service in New York City encounter is confirmed or suspected marijuana exposure. The vast majority of cases are dogs, according to The Animal Medical Center, but any pet with access to marijuana can ingest it and present with similar clinical signs. Ingestion is the most common source of toxicity; however, if exposed to significant amounts of marijuana smoke, minor to moderate clinical signs can be seen, says Christine Keyserling, DVM, who works in emergency and critical care at The Animal Medical Center.

THC, which is found in higher concentrations in cannabis meant for humans, is the part of the plant that is most toxic to pets, explains Trupanion’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Kerri Marshall, DVM. “If your pet does ingest THC-filled marijuana, please don’t wait it out,” Marshall urges. “Take them to the veterinarian.”

The Signs
In dogs, clinical signs typically begin 30 to 90 minutes after the marijuana has been eaten. Dogs generally recover from marijuana intoxication with no long-term effects, but if not treated, it could result in a more serious outcome. The most common clinical signs associated with marijuana ingestion include dullness and ataxia (drunken gait), according to Keyserling. Additional clinical signs include vomiting, urinary incontinence (dribbling), low body temperature, slow heart rate and hyper-reactivity to stimuli. In the most severe cases, these clinical signs can progress to seizures and/or coma, Keyserling says. Your pet also may have ingested marijuana if you notice him acting lethargic or depressed along with any other of these symptoms.

Be Honest With Your Vet
The symptoms of marijuana intoxication can be symptoms of far more serious conditions. “If you think your dog has ingested marijuana, do not hesitate to tell your veterinarian,” Marshall says. “Being open can help your veterinarian eliminate more serious conditions and prevent testing needed to rule out other causes.” At the end of the day, it’s best to be upfront about the situation so you don’t waste any time getting your pet the help he needs.

Preventing Exposure
The best way to keep your pet safe is to prevent him from coming in contact with the marijuana in the first place. “Pet owners with marijuana in the house should keep their stash away from their pets,” Marshall says. Consider keeping marijuana in a closed container and then put the container away in a drawer or cabinet. "Please keep in mind that dogs have much better senses of smell than us and they are able to find and pick things up off the street or other public spaces — sometimes without you even seeing them eat anything,” Keyserling says. “If you ever notice any of the above clinical signs or any small behavioral changes in your pet, please do not hesitate to have them evaluated by a veterinarian as quickly as possible.”

Medical Marijuana Use In Pets
Anecdotal cases have shown healing benefits in pets, according to Marshall. The drug has been used as a pain reliever and to ease adverse effects from cancer medications and old age. “The Trupanion coverage plan covers medicinal marijuana for pets and other herbal therapies specifically recommended by veterinarians to help your pet manage pain or help them through cancer and tumor treatments,” Marshall says. Currently, veterinarians cannot prescribe marijuana to pets. However, Nevada is debating a bill that would enable pet owners to obtain medical marijuana for their sick pets with their vet’s approval.
  
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