A couple of things could be behind the increases in pet marijuana poisonings, according to Jibran Khokhar, the senior researcher on the current study.
For one, he said, the actual incidence could be rising because more people are using the drug, particularly in edible forms. Alternatively, people may be more willing to admit Fido got into the pot brownies because the drug is legal.
“I don’t think we really have a good handle on the ‘why’ yet,” said Khokhar, of Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, in Canada.
Rozanski thinks pet owners are now more forthright about having pot in the home.
“When it was illegal, it was harder to get them to admit,” she said. “They thought we would report it to the police which we wouldn’t.”
In Khokhar’s study, most vets described scenarios where pets accidentally got hold of edibles, or sometimes dried cannabis, when no one was looking.
Of course, that was based on owners’ admissions. Khokhar said it’s unclear how often people might have given a pet cannabis for “medicinal” purposes.
Both Ludwik and Rozanski cautioned against that, saying people should only give their pets medicines that have been prescribed by their vet. Instead, they said, think of marijuana as any other substance you’d want to keep out of pets’ reach.
Vets in the survey said they were usually able to manage marijuana poisoning with outpatient monitoring. But a short hospital stay is needed in some cases when an animal has a particularly low heart rate, for example. Vets sometimes use IV lipid therapy to speed up excretion of the drug, Ludwik said. (Lipids are fats, and the active ingredient in marijuana is fat-soluble.)
Ten veterinarians in the survey reported a total of 16 deaths they attributed to marijuana poisoning.
However, Khokhar said, it’s hard to know whether marijuana, per se, was to blame. Chocolate, for example, contains an ingredient that is toxic to dogs, so it could be the brownies, rather than the added pot, that proved lethal.
Regardless, all three experts stressed the importance of protecting your beloved pet from the misery of pot poisoning, and avoiding the expense of an emergency medical visit.