With the legalization of marijuana (cannabis) in several US states and Canada, accidental consumption by pets is a growing concern. Nine states in the US have legalized cannabis for personal (human) use – including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, and Oregon – and 30 states allow cannabis for medicinal purposes. As of October 17th, cannabis for personal use will be legal in all provinces and territories in Canada; its use for medicinal purposes has been legal for some time.
The use of cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of health conditions is on the rise, both in humans and pets. While results of several studies have shown positive effects of CBD use in dogs, its safety and effectiveness is not fully known or understood.
What’s the difference?
It is important to understand the differences between CBD and the other components of cannabis.
There are several strains (or sub-species) of the Cannabis plant, including “hemp” and “marijuana” or “cannabis”.
All Cannabis plants contain over 100 cannabinoids i.e., active chemical compounds of cannabis). Each cannabinoid has different effects in the body. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of cannabis, binds to receptors in the central nervous system causing a euphoric “high” feeling. CBD, on the other hand has no psychoactive effects. It binds to different receptors throughout the body and does not cause euphoria.
Hemp has very low concentrations of THC (around 0.3%), while cannabis contains anywhere from 5-20% THC. Hemp (and other specially bred strains of Cannabis) contains high levels of CBD. These high-CBD/low-THC strains are preferred for extracting CBD for medicinal use.
CBD is used to treat a variety of health conditions in human patients, including seizures, nausea, stress, anxiety, arthritis, back pain, and gastrointestinal disorders, among other health conditions in human patients.
Cannabis flowers are smoked in joints or bongs, or – to avoid the smoke – are vaped. Cannabis can be mixed in food such as brownies, cookies, and candies, and it can be brewed as a tea.
What are the dangers of cannabis in pets?
Pets that consume cannabis, whether from eating edibles (baked goods containing cannabis), or the dried flowers and leaves, or inhaling second-hand smoke, may become high.
Depending on how much cannabis a pet ingests or inhales certain neurological effects will become evident. The signs include disorientation, incoordination, excessive drooling, leaking urine, hyperactivity, vocalization, and a wide-eyed appearance due to dilatation of the pupils. In some cases, seizures and coma can result.
Treatment may include administration of activated charcoal, IV fluids, anti-anxiety medications, and a quiet environment until the effects of the drug wear off.
Keep cannabis out of reach of your pet, whether it be medicinal or recreational. If you suspect your pet has consumed cannabis, take your pet to your veterinarian or emergency hospital immediately and be honest about what your pet has consumed/inhaled, and how much. It is much easier – and faster – for your veterinarian to treat your pet if all the facts are provided.
What about CBD?
With the legalization of cannabis, therapies using CBD are on the rise in humans and on the horizon for pets. CBD for medicinal use in humans is legal in some countries; however, the benefits of its use in pets is not clear. Currently veterinarians in Canada and the US cannot legally prescribe CBD for pets. Clinical trials have begun on the use of cannabis-based products in pets for the treatment of anxiety, osteoarthritis, and epilepsy. If the results of these studies prove to be positive, it is possible that Health Canada and the FDA will approve the use of CBD in pets.
In some countries, CBD products containing no more than 0.3% THC are legal to sell. This has led to a huge market of pet products containing CBD, including treats, sprays, balms, oils, and other CBD products. Many of the products have not been fully researched. Many of the positive effects are based on preliminary results and anecdotal reports only.
If you decide to forge out on your own and treat your pet’s health condition with CBD, please do your homework and speak to your veterinarian. Blindly giving CBD to your pet without taking precautions is a recipe for problems. It is important to buy CBD products from a reputable, trusted brand. At minimum, check to see if there is a “Certificate of Analysis” for the product you are thinking about purchasing. This certificate tells you how much THC is in the product; it should never be over 0.3%. Be sure to let your veterinarian know that you are giving your pet CBD.
Until the research is clear and CBD is legal for use in pets, it is best to use the other options that your veterinarian can legally prescribe to help your furry friend with any health conditions he may have.