Is Cannabis Toxic to Dogs? | TheUnion.com

Is Cannabis Toxic to Dogs?

Patricia Smith

Is cannabis safe for pets? Photo by Getty Images

It is surprisingly easy to fall into the trap of believing that something is true if you hear it repeated often enough. For instance, I had often heard that cannabis is toxic to animals, dogs in particular, which I accepted as a truism since I didn't have any evidence to contradict the premise.

Knowing that dogs (and all living things outside of insects) have an endocannabinoid system similar to humans, the claim that cannabis is safe for humans but not for dogs didn't ring true. Being naturally inquisitive, I decided to do more research and have found that just like most claims of lethal cannabis toxicity, this one falls apart on closer inspection.

The issue was first raised when Bri Pasko from the VRCC Emergency Hospital in Englewood, CO reported on the local news station that "since the state passed medical marijuana licenses, they've seen an increase from an occasional incident to between 2-3 cases of pets accidentally eating pot edibles a week." Alarm bells increased after The Coloradan reported that two dogs died from asphyxiating on their vomit after consuming massive amounts of edibles.

Let's dissect these claims a little further. In one case the edibles in question were a pound of brownies. Chocolate is known to be toxic to dogs so one has to ask whether it was the ingredients or the cannabis that caused the reaction? When flower buds are involved, the question is whether those buds were sprayed with toxic chemicals.

The bottom line is that it is not a good idea to feed human edibles to your four-legged friends. It is far safer to use tinctures or salves that can be dose adjusted for their smaller bodies or products that were specifically designed for animals.

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The bottom line is that it is not a good idea to feed human edibles to your four-legged friends. It is far safer to use tinctures or salves that can be dose adjusted for their smaller bodies or products that were specifically designed for animals.

Fortunately some guidelines have been established for dosing our pets. However the question looms whether dogs need a full entourage of cannabinoids that include both THC and CBD.
Juliana Corales, founder and CEO of Treatibles, created a line of CBD pet treats to take the guess work out of the equation. She is in the school that believes that THC is toxic to dogs, but CBD is perfectly safe. After working with several veterinarians, she came up with a recommended dose for dogs of 1 gram per 10 pounds of body weight. This is the recommended daily supplemental dose; treating chronic illness would most likely require a higher dose and would probably require some THC to treat cancer.

This does not mean that precautions shouldn't be taken. Dogs do feel the effects of THC more quickly and more acutely than humans. The reason for this is that dogs have a higher cluster of endocannabinoid receptors in their brains than humans where psychoactive effects are felt.

So what to do if your pet finds your stash of edibles? First, try to determine the amount of cannabis that was consumed. Second, analyze the ingredients to see if any of them are known to be toxic to animals. Chocolate, raisins, walnuts, yeast dough, and xylitol (artificial sweetener) are some common ingredients found in edibles that could pose a health risk to your pets. Third, observe your animal's behavior to determine whether a trip to the vet is called for. (Vomiting or seizures would obviously require treatment.)

Sometimes pets find our medicine without our knowledge. Dr. Eric Barchas, DVM, offers tips to determine if your pet may be under the influence. "An otherwise healthy dog suddenly becomes visibly lethargic and disoriented and may have trouble walking. The dog may (or may not) dribble urine. The dog may overreact to tactile, auditory, or visual stimuli."
Here's the good news from Dr. Barchas. "All vital signs will be normal. Gum coloration (a sign of circulation) will be normal. Pulses, blood pressure, and bloodwork will be normal. The dog should recover fully within 24 to 48 hours, depending upon the quantity of marijuana ingested."

Dr. Barchas further states that there is "essentially no fatal dose" as long as you avoid complications from dehydration or asphyxiation. He adds that he once treated a dog that ate pounds of high grade Humboldt buds who fully recovered, and none of the hundreds of dogs he has treated over the years has ever died from ingesting cannabis.

The best advice when using cannabis therapy on your pets is to use caution, start with small doses and work your way up slowly if more medicine is necessary. And keep your edibles safely away from your pets.