A new survey of North American veterinarians revealed cases of marijuana poisoning among pets are on the rise and have “increased significantly” since October, 2018. More specifically, the trend in pets OD-ing on pot correlates with the movement to legalize the herb for recreational and medical use across the U.S.
Survey results overview
Reports compiled by drug researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario showed that dogs were the most common victim of THC poisoning among pets, though cats were also victims. But their list also noted more unusual animal allies to have overdosed, including iguanas, ferrets, cockatoos and horses.
More than 200 veterinarians were polled in 2021 for the survey, which asked them to recall such patients prior to 2018 — the year cannabis was fully legalized in Canada — and after. Around one-third of vets noted an increase in instances of THC toxicosis since 2018, with commonly reported symptoms such as lack of bladder control, confusion, clumsiness, sluggishness and slowed heartbeat. Most cases involved animals eating marijuana-based treats (or “edibles”).
Most pets sickened by THC won’t require hospitalization and nearly always make a full outpatient recovery at home under the care of their owners. In more severe cases, IV fluids, induced vomiting and doses of activated charcoal — to help absorb the toxin — were used to nurse the animal back to health.
Of the 16 deaths reported in the survey, other risk factors likely played a role such as old age, underlying illness, animal size, or the addition of chocolate — chocolate is a popular medium for edibles that is also potentially lethal for dogs.
Pot and pets
While giving marijuana-derived CBD and THC to pets for homeopathic treatment has become popular in the past few years, pet-owners should know that cannabis-based medicine is not approved for veterinary use.
Journal reference: Richard Quansah Amissah, Nadine A. Vogt, Chuyun Chen, Karolina Urban & Jibran Khokhar, Prevalence and characteristics of cannabis-induced toxicoses in pets: Results from a survey of veterinarians in North America, PlosOne Journal, April 20, 2022.