By Elva Ma, DVM

With the legalization of cannabis officially in place today, the team at Wellesley have had many questions from pet owners about how this can impact their pets, for better or for worse.

Marijuana toxicity

Accidental cannabis exposure by dogs is something we regularly see at our hospital, whether it is scavenged off the ground at the park, or swiped off the kitchen counter as a tasty snack by an indiscriminate pup. Common symptoms include difficulty walking, lethargy, tremors, vomiting, and urinary incontinence. If suspected, the pet should be brought into the veterinary hospital as soon as possible, as more severe clinical signs such as coma or even death can occur with higher doses.

Even with legalization, there is often still a stigma attached to marijuana, and pet owners may not always want to be truthful about the suspected source of illness. However, it is important to remember that full disclosure will help the veterinary team best target the course of treatment and speed the recovery of the patient.

To prevent exposure to cannabis by dogs and cats in the first place, products should be locked in a cupboard far above the ground. Secondhand smoke is also a risk, so pets should be removed from the room when in use.

Therapeutic uses of cannabis

While the medical benefits of cannabis are becoming transparent in the human literature, similar scientific research in pets is limited. The multiple strains and chemical makeup of current cannabis products makes it very difficult to safely prescribe to pets. Moreover, the research into how cannabis interacts with pet animals is still in its infancy. These factors make it impossible for veterinarians to safely and legally prescribe cannabis products at this time, including cannabidiol (CBD) oil.

While there are currently no Health Canada-approved cannabis pet products on the market, approval of clinical trials are underway. We hope this means that safe, effective, and non-psychoactive products will eventually be available for our furry friends at the veterinary hospital. Until then, I encourage our clients at Wellesley to have an open discussion with the team about any questions they may have about medical cannabis for pets. We will be keeping our eyes and ears open on any progress being made in the research field until then!