By Sarah Weiss
Humans have been using cannabis and hemp for their therapeutic benefits for thousands of years. Following the federal legalization of hemp products and multiple states’ legalization of medical and recreational cannabis, research has only just begun to show the numerous therapeutic benefits cannabinoids can provide through human consumption. As we look into the benefits of these wondrous plants for ourselves, it’s only natural to consider the possibilities it could provide our furry friends.
Almost all animals, vertebrates and invertebrates alike, have endocannabinoid systems (ECS), just like humans. Insects being one of the few observed species to be devoid of said system. “The endocannabinoid system modulates the nervous and immune systems and other organ systems through a complex system of receptors and chemical signaling molecules to relieve pain and inflammation, modulate metabolism and neurologic function, promote healthy digestive processes, and support reproductive function and embryologic development.” (Silver, Robert)
Like us, animals produce their own cannabinoids to interact with and signal the ECS. And, like us, animals are subject to effects from the introduction of external cannabinoids, such as THC & CBD. While all animals have an ECS, that doesn’t mean we all process cannabinoids in the same way. So just because you enjoy a THC high, doesn’t mean your pets will.
Why THC isn’t recommended for animal consumption?
THC is considered toxic to dogs and cats. The severity of the toxicity depends on the manner of ingestion and the quantity ingested. Instances of exposure to secondhand smoke and the ingestion of raw cannabis plant material are fairly unlikely to be fatal. However, THC exposure can affect your pet’s heart rate and body temperature, and even lead to tremors, seizures, and coma. Additionally, the consumption of large amounts of activated THC, like one could find in a medical-grade edible, could be lethal.
Severity of toxicity also depends on the animals’ size. The same amount of THC is likely to affect your Boston Terrier more than it would affect your Great Dane. “certainly not all pets follow a single pattern of intoxication. A small amount may affect one pet more than another, so there is no official safe level of exposure.
What does THC intoxication look like in animals?
Signs and symptoms your pet could be experiencing THC toxicity include difficulty walking and maintaining balance, vomiting, lethargy, excessive drooling, dilated pupils and/or glossy eyes, and urinary incontinence. Additionally, your pet may experience elevated blood pressure, a slowed breathing rare, and fluctuation in body temperature. Fortunately, these symptoms are often short-lived, lasting anywhere from 12-96 hours.
What to do if your pet is showing signs of THC toxicity
If you suspect your pet has been exposed to cannabis and is experiencing THC toxicity, you have a few options. If your pet is a little wobbly but seems mostly comfortable, it might be best to let it pass at home. However, if your furry friend is unable to stand, eat, or drink, it may warrant a trip to your local emergency vet. Your vet may choose to pump your animals stomach or give them some charcoal to help absorb whatever it is they’ve ingested. It’s important to open and honest with your vet and disclose that your pet may have been exposed to cannabis in order for the vet to formulate the best course of treatment.
What about CBD for animals?
Recent research has shown that CBD does not have the same toxicity to animals as THC. In a 12 week study in which dogs were given CBD-infused dog treats twice daily, the most notable side effect was loose stool, which only occurred around 3% of the time. Physical exams revealed no abnormalities or changes in behavior throughout the study. So while there is little evidence to the positive effects of CBD in animals, the same can be said about the negative.
Many believe CBD has the potential to treat a variety of medical conditions in animals, such as anxiety and seizures. However, there is no current scientific research to back these beliefs. This doesn’t mean that CBD isn’t an effective tool in the treatment of these ailments, it’s just that we don’t know for sure yet.
Additionally, drug interactions between CBD and veterinary pharmaceuticals have not been studied as of yet. If your four-legged friend takes a prescription medication, it is unadvised to administer any CBD without veterinary approval and/or supervision.
If you are looking into a CBD treatment for your pet, we recommend checking out your local pet store or CBD shop instead of your local dispensaries. This is because according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commision, no dispensary may sell products that are specifically to be consumed by animals.
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