Looking After Your Friends

By Justin Allec

A big question around cannabis legalization was access. Requiring proof of age for purchase is great—except that accessibility then switches to the consumer. If you live with children and pets, this is a concern. Keeping your cannabis safely out of reach and secure is the best method of preventing access, but still, accidents happen.

While children’s access drove much of the conversation initially, we all know pets get into things that they shouldn’t. Research has shown that other mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles all have more endocannabinoid receptors than humans, so their reactions to cannabis are severe. A cannabis-intoxicated dog or cat will sail right past Euphoria Lane and end up on Fear Street. If Rover does eat your stash, though, it’s good to know that cannabis overdoses usually aren’t deadly (however, it must be stressed that though there have been no reported pet deaths from ingesting commercial-grade cannabis, there have been such cases when it comes to medical-grade cannabis).

The danger for pets lies in managing their symptoms and their inability to understand what’s happening to them. I’d encourage you to reach out to your veterinarian, as cannabis intoxication is classified as a form of poisoning. Like with humans, the method of ingestion will determine the experience. Exposure to second-hand cannabis smoke will play out differently than if Rover chowed down on a whole tray of edible baking. If they did eat something they shouldn’t—cannabis baking frequently uses chocolate, which dogs are allergic to—that’s another reason see your vet.

The usual symptoms will be present. Cannabis will increase (or decrease) their heart rate, slow their breathing, and lower their body temperature. For smaller animals, especially cats, these symptoms could become deadly if they persist. Your pet may become agitated, disoriented, lethargic, and uncoordinated. Expect more vocalizing and salivation. Provide plenty of fluids but abstain from increasing their food. Keep them comfortable and calm and reduce sensory input. Some pets may experience urinary incontinence, and in some severe cases they may have tremors or seizures.

Repeated exposure to cannabis can lead to health problems for pets. Second-hand smoke has been linked to eye problems, skin irritation, and respiratory problems like chronic coughing and sinus infections, and even serious bacterial, lung, or lymph node infections. While there is some current research into the benefits of CBD for pets, these studies are, like with humans, preliminary, and I would urge you to consult with your vet before administering any substance.

Accidents happen, but responsibility is part of being a pet owner and a cannabis user. Keep your stash secure and look out for your best friend’s well-being. Your pet will be a lot happier if you consume the cannabis, but then give them all the attention.