Legalize It? How Marijuana Affects Pets
While several states across the U.S. (including the District of Columbia) have already legalized marijuana in some form, the debate continues to rage on.
Regardless of which side of the issue you fall on, one thing is certain — the more marijuana is legalized, the more readily available it will be, which means more chances for animals to get into it.
It’s already happening: veterinarians are seeing more and more cases of marijuana poisoning in pets, usually when an animal accidentally ingests it. And with the rising usage of marijuana edibles, these cases only continue to grow. Further compounding the problem is the fact that many edibles are made with cannabis butter and/or chocolate, two things that are very enticing — and very dangerous — to pets.
But how does marijuana affect our pets?
The most common side effects of marijuana intoxication in pets are depression, listlessness, loss of motor coordination or balance, lethargy, coma, low heart rate, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, dilated pupils, hyperactivity, vocalization, and seizures. It’s rarely deadly and long-term complications are also uncommon.
Still, you need to get your pet to the veterinarian any time he or she ingests marijuana. Getting high isn’t a fun trip for animals. They don’t know how to process the feelings and sensations they experience, often leading to a very traumatic experience. Activated charcoal, IV fluids, and anti-vomiting medications can be given to help remove the toxins, and your veterinarian will regulate your pet’s temperature and control any seizures or tremors. But just like with humans, the best way to “come down” is with time and rest.
The worst possible side effect of an animal ingesting marijuana has nothing to do with the animal itself — many times owners are reluctant to take their pets to the vet after they’ve ingested marijuana out of fear of legal repercussions. This line of thinking is dangerously wrong. Veterinarians only want to help your animals, they are unlikely to have any interest in reporting your — or your pet’s — marijuana usage, unless of course you’re intentionally getting your pets high, which is, quite simply, animal abuse.
Many people tout the medical benefits of marijuana and studies have shown it can have a positive effect on people suffering from chronic pain, nausea, and other ailments. Can suffering animals enjoy these same benefits?
Some pet owners feel that marijuana can be used to effectively treat many conditions, but these reports are purely anecdotal. Still, it’s tough to argue with some of their stories.
But for as many people as there are who tout marijuana’s benefits for pets, there are many others who feel the drug is just too strong for an animal to ingest. Because of this, products have been developed to help make marijuana more tolerable for pets. Canna Companion uses ground-up hemp plants to make their cannabis supplements, which contain cannabidiol (CBD), the ingredient most useful for treating pain and other medical problems, rather than THC, the more active ingredient in marijuana. Canna-Pet also makes these supplements, which offer animals pain relief without the negative side effects.
What Do Veterinarians Think?
Medical marijuana laws don’t apply to pets. Veterinarians aren’t allowed to prescribe medical marijuana, so even if they thought it could ease an animal’s pain or health issues, they couldn’t do anything about it. Physicians practicing in the states where marijuana is legal are exempt from prosecution, but veterinarians aren’t afforded the same protection. Even simply recommending marijuana could lead to a veterinarian losing his or her medical license.
Besides the legal ramifications, veterinarians are proceeding with caution when it comes to treating animals with marijuana. The American Veterinary Medical Association has not taken an official position on the use of medical marijuana, but the American Holistic VMA has encouraged research into the uses of cannabis in animals. As with all discussions surrounding the legalization of marijuana, the debate continues.