pot and petsThe state of marijuana legalization in the United States is in flux, and Montana is no exception. Medical cannabis was legalized in Montana in 2004, and a 2016 ballot initiative further loosened the regulations.

While proponents of medical marijuana are obviously pleased with the growing acceptance of the drug, it has had a less than positive impact on many pets. The Pet Poison Hotline reports a 330% increase in marijuana toxicity cases in pets over the past several years, correlating with the rise in legalization across the country.

Educating yourself about pot and pets, including the dangers and how you can prevent an accidental poisoning, is the first step toward making sure your furry loved ones stay safe.

Why Pot and Pets Don’t Mix

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active ingredient in marijuana, and is responsible for the effects of pot on humans and pets. Because pets are so much smaller than humans, it takes a much lower amount of THC to cause adverse reactions than it would for a person.

Signs of marijuana toxicity in pets include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Urinary incontinence (dribbling)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Loss of consciousness/coma

Because THC is fat soluble, pets may exhibit signs of marijuana poisoning for several hours or days following exposure as the chemical is slowly released from fat stores. If your pet has been exposed to marijuana or exhibits any of the above symptoms, seek medical help for him or her immediately.

Exposure Risks

Ingestion of marijuana is the most common way pets are exposed to THC. Edible goods made with marijuana, such as cookies, brownies, and pot butter, are irresistible to many pets (especially dogs). This is often the most troubling form of ingestion, as many of these treats contain chocolate or Xylitol, which are both toxic to our fur friends. Even if they don’t contain these specific ingredients, the high sugar or fat contents can trigger the double whammy of pancreatitis in addition to the toxicity of the plant.

What About Medical Marijuana?

Medical cannabis for pets is the subject of a growing debate. Some pet owners are administering medical marijuana to their pets, and some companies even sell pet treats laced with pot.

There is currently very little research to support the benefits of medical marijuana for pets, including proper dosage amounts. At this time, it is not approved by any professional veterinary organization.

Protecting Your Pal

As with any toxic substance, the best way to keep your pet safe is to store medical marijuana and other marijuana-based products out of your pet’s reach. Never leave remnants in an open trash container or compost bin where pets may find it. Marijuana smoking should be done in a separate room, away from pets, to minimize their exposure to secondhand smoke.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the staff at Billings Animal Family Hospital with your questions and concerns about pot and pets.