Marijuana and pets "420 edition": 5 things pet owners need to know

Today is “420” (April, 20) for those who recognize the date as the national holiday for cannabis culture. Trupanion, the leader in medical insurance for pets, looked at its database of more than 500,000 cats & dogs to find out how marijuana is impacting our furry friends. Here are 5 things you need to know, along with some advice from Trupanion’s staff veterinarian, Dr. Caroline Wilde.

1) THC is toxic for pets

With relaxed laws around marijuana in many states, humans may be less concerned with leaving it out. Unfortunately, this means pets are getting into their owners’ stashes and the results can be harmful.

  • Trupanion sees over five-times the amount of claims that involve cannabis ingestion than that of alcohol.

  • THC can cause balance problems, irregular heartbeat, incontinence, or worse.

  • Even inhalation through second-hand smoke can be very dangerous to your pet.

2) Pot brownies and other edibles spell double trouble for your pet

Edibles may be a favorite way to get high for some humans, but make sure to keep those infused confections away from your pet.

  • Trupanion has found that in the past, nearly 10% of marijuana toxicity claims are paired with chocolate toxicity.

  • On their own, substances such as chocolate, butter and oil can be harmful to pets and, when combined with marijuana, the results are far worse and could potentially cause vomiting, diarrhea, or pancreatitis.

“Edible forms of marijuana ‘double down’ on the toxicity, as the oil or plant is generally combined with something else that can be toxic to the pet,” noted Caroline Wilde, staff veterinarian at Trupanion. “For example, a pot brownie contains THC, which while toxic, is generally less potentially harmful than the chocolate it is combined with. Depending on the amount and type consumed, chocolate can cause heart rhythm disturbances and seizures, and can even be fatal at high enough doses.”

3) Treating pets with marijuana toxicity can be expensive

  • The average cost to treat marijuana toxicity is around $500, but in some severe cases treatment can run thousands of dollars.

  • To date, Trupanion has paid out over $310,000 in claims

  • Over the past five years Trupanion has processed nearly 1,000 claims related to marijuana ingestion

4) How prevalent is weed-related illness in pets?

  • It varies from state to state and province to province.

  • In the U.S. we see the highest frequency of marijuana toxicity claims in Oregon, California, Washington, Nevada and Massachusetts (in that order).

  • In Canada we see the highest frequency of marijuana toxicity claims in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario (in that order).

5) What Should you do if you suspect your dog has ingested marijuana?

“If you suspect your dog has ingested marijuana, you should seek veterinary advice immediately, so that they can determine the best course of action to minimize adverse effects,” advises Dr. Wilde. “It is really important to be honest with your vet about what was consumed, so that they can best help your pet.”

  • Management of marijuana or THC ingestion will depend on how recently it was consumed, how much was consumed, and what it was combined with.

  • If ingestion was recent, your veterinarian may be able to induce vomiting.

  • Depending on the amount of time that has passed, you veterinarian can sometimes administer activated charcoal to reduce the amount absorbed in the GI tract.

  • If your pet is sedate, your veterinarian can offer supportive care, with fluids and monitoring, and they can manage any of the related adverse effects.

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