An analysis of surveys completed by veterinarians indicated an increasing number of pet cannabis poisonings was recently published in PLOS ONE. The findings corroborate the spike in poisoning calls received by the Animal Poison Control Center and Pet Poison Helpline. Cannabis-induced toxicosis rates are higher for dogs, but cats and other domestic pets have ingested cannabis and become ill. The research study focused on frequency, diagnostic criteria, clinical signs, and prognoses by analyzing the 251 survey responses of North American veterinarians. Pet poisoning incidents have jumped in Canada and the United States since 2018. The most common route of exposure was ingestion, and oftentimes the pet owner left cannabis product unattended in an accessible place.
Signs of pet cannabis poisoning can happen quickly and can be observed within 30-90 minutes of ingestion. Some signs include disorientation, listlessness, clumsiness, urinary incontinence, lowered heart rate, and nausea and vomiting. According to veterinarian consultant Sara Ochoa, “It is best to go to your veterinarian, especially if it was a large amount [of marijuana] or a small dog…The earlier you seek veterinary attention, the better.” Immediate veterinary attention can minimize unpleasant physical symptoms or potentially prevent long term neurological damage.
The survey of veterinarians indicated key outcomes about preventative education, safety precautions in the home, and the efficacy of the recovery treatments used. Survey responses reported that most of the pets had mild to moderate symptoms, received outpatient treatment and recovered completely. In the small number of fatal cases, veterinarians noted that the deaths may have been caused by other preexisting health complications or old age. Another possibility is that an edible may contain another toxic ingredient such as chocolate.
This study highlights the importance of researching the effects of cannabis on animals in order to understand mechanisms involved in cannabis absorption and discover more effective veterinary interventions for pet poisonings. It also is a valuable reminder to keep pets safe by engaging in responsible cannabis use and storage. Pet owners who would like more information on cannabis-induced toxicity and guidance on handling a potential poisoning can call Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.