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Marijuana poisoning on the rise in pets

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In an NBC News article dated Jan. 21, 2014, Brian Alexander cautions readers to protect pets from marijuana exposure, which is highly toxic to dogs, cats and other small animals.

According to the article, "Calls reporting pet poisonings by marijuana have increased by about 30 percent since 2009, from 213 calls that year to 320 in 2013, according to the Animal Poison Control Center, a division of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals."

Alexander quotes veterinarian Dr. Matt Booth in Boulder, Colo., who said his veterinary emergency center sees about a case a month. Dr. Monica Kaeble of the Pet Emergency and Specialty Care Center in La Mesa, Calif., told her practice sees more, about one or two cases of cannabis poisonings per week.

According to the Pet Poison Hotline, signs and symptoms to watch for include the following:

  • Severe depression
  • Walking drunk
  • Lethargy
  • Coma
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Respiratory depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Coma
  • Hyperactivity
  • Vocalization
  • Seizures

Marijuana, or THC, affects receptors in the brain which alter normal neurotransmitter function. Dogs and cats can be poisoned by marijuana from second hand smoke exposure, or from direct ingestion of marijuana or baked foods (e.g., pot brownies, pot butter, etc.) laced with THC. In dogs and cats poisoned by marijuana, clinical signs can be seen within 3 hours, and include severe depression, walking as if drunk, lethargy, coma, low heart rate, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, dilated pupils, hyperactivity, vocalization and seizures. Vomiting is often seen with dogs despite the “anti-emetic” (anti-vomiting) qualities of THC.

Though traditional cannabis is toxic to pets, researchers are hard at work crafting a pet-friendly version of medical marijuana to provide pets the same medical benefits humans in Wash. and Colo. now legally enjoy. According to an an Oct. 28, 2013, article from Leaf Science, "Canna-Pet supplements are the product of seventeen years of research and development, including five years of clinical trials."

Dan Goldfarb, one of the founders of the company behind Canna-Pet, CannaSalus LLC, explained the need for a cannabis-based pet supplement.

“While medical testing continues to confirm the benefits of CBD in humans, we already know it has amazing benefits in small animals, so the time had come to release a supplement specifically for our favorite small animals – our cats and dogs.”

Because the industrial hemp used to manufacture the cannabis-based pet supplement is free of THC, it does not produce the "high" experienced with other forms of marijuana. Without the toxicity of THC, supplements like Canna-Pet may provide a viable treatment for all types of pet ailments.

In the meantime, veterinarians advise that owners keep pets a safe distance from cannabis exposure.

To read other articles by this author, click here.