With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in California, many cannabis-consuming pet owners find themselves asking one important question: can marijuana use inside the home have an effect on domestic pets? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. When pets like dogs and cats come into contact with marijuana (whether via heavy secondhand smoke or in the form of edibles), marijuana toxicity and even fatal poisoning can occur. In fact, veterinarians in Canada (where cannabis legalization is anticipated within the year) have already reported an increase in the number of dogs treated for marijuana toxicity within the past year.
Symptoms of Marijuana Poisoning in Pets
Pet owners who wish to indulge in marijuana should be aware of the most common signs of marijuana poisoning in pets, which include (but are not limited to):
- dilated pupils
- unusual vocalization
- walking “drunk”
Pets experiencing marijuana poisoning may also show less obvious signs, such as a lowered heart rate and low blood pressure, though these must usually be confirmed by a veterinarian.
What to Do if Your Pet Shows Signs of Marijuana Poisoning
If your pet shows any signs of marijuana poisoning and you have reason to believe your pet has ingested any amount of marijuana, it’s imperative that you seek veterinary care immediately. While the risk of death from marijuana poisoning is relatively low in larger pets (such as large breed dogs), it is possible for marijuana poisoning to be fatal. This is especially true if a pet has consumed an edible that contains other known toxins, such as chocolate. These toxins combined can slowly shut down your pet’s vital organs and, if not treated immediately, could result in death.
Most often, marijuana poisoning in pets can be effectively treated through the administration of activated charcoal, which reduces the body’s absorption of toxins and speeds up their processing time within the body.
Will Secondhand Smoke Harm Your Pet?
While your pet is unlikely to become affected by small amounts of second-hand smoke within your home, he or she could develop marijuana toxicity or poisoning if subjected to heavy amounts of smoke in an enclosed or non-ventilated space. It’s also important to consider the potential health dangers of any level of smoke inhalation to your pet, as it can be irritating and damaging to your pet’s lungs and respiratory system.
Does Medical Marijuana Work for Pets?
The jury is still out on this; while some evidence has suggested that medical marijuana can help alleviate pain and other symptoms in pets, there have been no widely accepted studies done on the matter. For this reason, pet owners are advised to keep marijuana away from house pets at all times.
Keeping Your Pet Safe Around Marijuana
The best way to keep your pet safe from the risk of marijuana poisoning is to treat marijuana like any other toxin in your home and keep it out of your pet’s reach. This applies not only to marijuana in leaf or bud form, but edibles as well. Keeping marijuana and edibles inside a glass jar or other enclosed container away from your pet’s reach will reduce the likelihood of an accident.
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