When I was in college, my parents let me bring my golden retriever, Duchess, to live with me in College Station. It was awesome having her there with me – when I was stressed, we’d go throw the frisbee. One of her favorite treats was grapes. Oh, how she loved them. We got lucky. It wasn’t until years after her death due to a ruptured splenic tumor (you can read more about that in “Pure Bred Dogs and Cancer”) that I learned that those “treats” could have caused renal failure! We see the list of human foods that are toxic to animals go around social media during the holidays, but we always need to keep an eye on what our pets are ingesting.
So, what does me giving grapes to my old dog have to do with cancer? A lot, actually. I thought I was just giving my dog a treat, but it could have killed her. Here’s the connection – with the passage of both medical and recreational marijuana laws in many states, veterinarians all over the nation, as well as the poison control centers operated by groups such as the ASPCA are receiving a drastic increase in calls about pets ingesting marijuana.
But how would a dog get marijuana?
In my brain (which can be a strange place), I see two scenarios where well-meaning people could expose their pets to marijuana or marijuana derived products:
The first is the pet parent that is trying to ease the pain of an animal with cancer (or other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis or hip dysplasia, seizure disorders, or anxiety). Using the logic that marijuana has been legalized for medical reasons in many states, some folks may consider giving their animals a dose. From what I’ve read, this is often in the form of edibles – baking it into a treat for the animal.
Scenario two is where a human cancer patient has possession of marijuana for medical use and the animal accidentally ingests the product. In this case, what I’ve read is that the ingestion is usually in the form of edibles, although secondhand smoke is also a culprit.
Other culprits – include animals consuming human feces (I’m not even going to think about how that one is happening) and eating the remains of marijuana cigarettes that have not been disposed of properly. Cats may also eat the leaves directly from a growing plant.
How does it actually harm an animal?
Just like humans, our pets have receptors for cannabinoids – both THC and CBD oils will attach to these. What we have to understand though, is just like with the grapes, compounds can react differently in animals. Where the grapes can cause renal failure in dogs, THC ingestion can cause agitation, loss of muscle tone, urinary incontinence, rapid or slow heartbeat, seizures, and in extreme cases – coma and death. In the case of edibles that were produced for human consumption, the products often also contain items such as chocolate, raisins, or xylitol, which further compound the THC toxicity to animals.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) appears to neither endorse nor disapprove of the use of cannabinoids for treatment of conditions in your pets. They urge pet owners to understand the laws of the state in which they live, as well as staying away from THC containing compounds. It is important to remember, especially if you are considering a marijuana product for your pet’s pain, that quality CBD oil products have most, if not all, of the THC removed. The AVMA warns though, that not all products are clearly or accurately labeled, as well as the fact that the research on veterinary use of cannabinoids is very limited, often citing anecdotal evidence.
And please, please, please discuss this with your veterinarian prior to starting treatment.
What to do if you suspect toxicity
If you suspect that your animal may have been accidentally exposed to a product containing THC, first start by calling your vet or local emergency vet clinic. They can monitor your animal and administer supportive therapies to aid you pet.
We here at Cancer Horizons know that you, our friends, only want what is best for your companion animals. Like the AVMA, we are neither endorsing or disapproving of the use of medical marijuana products for humans or pet – we just want you to have the info to make informed decisions.
As always, much love, many prayers, and abundant blessings to all of the warriors out there, including the four-legged furry fighters!!