The US cannabis industry is thriving, but the surge in pot use has brought an increase in cannabis poisoning in pets. While such cases existed even before the move to liberalize marijuana use within the US, the nature of today’s poisoning has changed. In 2016 vetstreet.com reported that “While most marijuana exposures more than 10 years ago were due to ingested plant material, today exposures to edibles […] and cannabis concentrates […] are much more common.”
Poisoning on the rise
As per Mashable’s account, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) Poison Control Center noted a 765% increase of marijuana-related calls in 10 years. ASPCA warns that “While many times marijuana ingestion is not life-threatening for pets […] If a pet gets into a product with a higher concentration, or large quantities of marijuana, more serious concerns are possible.”
The organization advises pet owners to immediately call their vet or Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) if they suspect that their pet might’ve ingested marijuana. Some of the more common symptoms of marijuana exposure among animals are vomiting, diarrhea, tachycardia, hypothermia, mydriasis, urinary incontinence, seizures, and coma (read more here [PDF]).
The new wave of cannabis culture attracts customers from all walks of life. Because of this companies are racing head over heals to come up with more appealing ways of consumption than smoking a cigarette. Marijuana-containing cookies, brownies, candies and oil are only a fraction of the cannabis edibles that are available on the market. In addition, the trend of “vaping” – inhaling the vapor of highly concentrated tobacco or cannabis oil, has brought a plethora of aromatized vaping products. Unfortunately, the appealing smells and tastes of marijuana edibles and concentrates are also attractive to pets.
Marijuana poisoning among pets, however, goes beyond them ingesting cannabis-containing products they found at home. The Press Democrat ran a story about the shock that Californian Lisa Mattson experienced when her Italian greyhound Dante started shaking and vomiting seemingly out of the blue. After an emergency trip to the vet, a test revealed that Lisa’s dog was suffering from exposure to THC – the cannabis compound that causes the “high.” The finding left Mattson perplexed as neither she nor her husband is a pot user.
A talk to a friend whose dog had gone through the same experience left Lisa to believe that the culprit was buds from marijuana cigarettes thrown by bypassers. “People come to Wine Country and indulge in legalized cannabis. When it comes time to head home, they toss it out, not realizing that roaming pets and wild animals may be attracted to it,” said Mattson for The Press Democrat.
Marijuana as a Cure
Apart from causing complications for pets and worry for their pet owners, it seems that marijuana might also provide relief to the four-legged companions. In recent years cannabis-derived substances have been heavily promoted as a cure for various diseases. But does the plant’s supposedly medicinal properties hold up to the hype?
Despite the move to liberalize marijuana use and possession, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) notes that the study of this drug is still riddled with red tape. Yet, researchers find ways to examine marijuana use for vet purposes and still comply with the law.
Dr. Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist and assistant professor at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical, has already run several studies on cannabidiol’s effect on chronic pain and autoimmune diseases. AMVA reports that Dr. McGrath was working with Applied Basic Science Corp. – a manufacturer of “hemp-hybrid plant oil extract for relief of signs of various medical conditions in pet animals,” to determine whether the company’s product is safe and effective. Results of the study were published by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and can be accessed here [PDF].
Last August California set a precedent by passing a bill that addressed marijuana research for veterinary use. As reported by VIN News Service the legislation’s purpose is to “prevent state regulators from penalizing a veterinarian for merely talking with clients about using marijuana […] in animal patients”. The bill, however, is not a path for vets to prescribe or administer marijuana-containing drugs. What’s more, research and use of marijuana for vet purposes may further be obstructed by federal restrictions.
Even though ex-California governor Jerry Brown signed the bill in October last year, the road towards liberalizing veterinary research on marijuana is still rocky. “We think that eventually if it proves out that this [marijuana-derived drugs] helps animals and the treatment of animals, that yes, that [authority] should come along in the future. We just don’t know when,” said Valerie Fenstermaker, executive director of the California Veterinary Medical Association, as quoted by VIN News Service.