Pets more likely to poison cannabis after legalization in Canada

Gerard Dau, Sleeping Dog (1650)

Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection


After cannabis was legalized in Canada, dogs and other pets began to poison it more often. This conclusion was reached by a team of researchers after analyzing the results of research on 251 veterinarians from Canada and the United States. Most of the time, the animals got sick from the fact that, due to neglect, they ate dried marijuana or products with it. Although most of those affected were cured quickly, sixteen deaths were reported by veterinarians. The results of the study were published in an article for the journal PLOS ONE.

In recent years, authorities in many countries and regions have legalized the use of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. In the US, this decision was first made in 2014 in the state of Colorado. Many other states were later added, including California. And in Canada, cannabis gained legal status in 2018 and immediately across the country.

The decision to ease controls on the marijuana trade and use had an unexpected side effect. A growing number of Americans and Canadians are turning to veterinarians for cannabis poisoning in their pets. In the last six years, the number of such cases has increased by 448 percent. The trend was also observed by experts from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In 2019, the Poison Control Center received 765 percent more calls from people whose pets had eaten cannabis than a year earlier.

A team of researchers led by Jibran Khokhar of the Ontario College of Veterinary Medicine has begun to find out how deep the problem is. In January-April 2021, they conducted an online survey of veterinarians from the US and Canada. The authors were interested in how often and under what conditions doctors encountered pets that were poisoned by cannabinoids of natural and synthetic origin.

A total of 251 veterinarians participated in the survey, but only 222 participants answered all questions. An additional seven authors had to be removed from the analysis because they did not meet the study criteria. Of the remaining veterinarians, 191 worked in Canada, mostly in Ontario, and the rest in the United States.

Study participants reported that cannabis toxicity was more common in dogs. Following are the cats and individual cases have been reported in iguanas, ferrets, horses and cockatoos. At the individual level, about 60 percent of veterinarians have not noticed that since October 2018, when marijuana was legalized in Canada, pets have begun to poison it more often. However, after counting all the cases reported by doctors, Hohar and his colleagues concluded that after the legalization of cannabis in Canada, the number of poisonings associated with it continued to rise, both among Canadians and American animals (p <0.0001 and p = 0.002, respectively).

According to research, the typical pattern of cannabinoid poisoning in pets includes, in descending order, the following most common symptoms: urinary incontinence, confusion, muscle dislocation, lethargy, tooth sensitivity and bradycardia. All of these, with the exception of bradycardia, can be quite serious.

Researchers note that in most cases, dogs, cats and other pets become intoxicated by eating dried cannabis or foods full of marijuana, such as cakes or cookies. This is usually due to the negligence of the owners, although in some cases they may be cannabis products made specifically for pets. And sometimes owners try to use marijuana to treat animals. Other sources of cannabis can be found in cigarette butts, oils, fertilizers and even human feces. The owners of the infected animals, who were able to identify the origin of the cannabis, said they bought it from legal producers, raised it themselves or bought it on the black market.

After being diagnosed with cannabis poisoning, veterinarians treated it with intravenous fluids, activated charcoal and antiemetics. In most cases, the treatment was out of hospital and the time spent by the infected animals in the hospital did not exceed 24 hours. Almost all cases of poisoning resulted in complete recovery. However, veterinarians also reported 16 deaths. They may not have been caused by cannabis itself, but by other animal-hazardous substances contained in the same products. For example, cannabis cookies and cakes contain chocolate that is poisonous to dogs and cats.

The increase in the number of cannabis poisonings of pets since its legalization can be due to several reasons. It makes more sense to assume that people have simply become more likely to use marijuana and products that contain it. However, it is possible that after legalization, owners of animals affected by poisoning became more willing to seek veterinary care without fear of problems with the law. Finally, according to the third hypothesis, veterinarians are now more aware of the symptoms of cannabis poisoning and are more likely to recognize it. In any case, the authors advise pet owners to keep marijuana and marijuana products away from their pets.

Spanish doctors, after interviewing 274 people, concluded that marijuana use can increase sexual arousal and orgasm in both men and women aged 18 to 30 years. At the same time, no statistically significant differences were found between volunteers who drank and did not drink, however, these differences occurred according to the degree of alcohol addiction.

Sergei Kolenov

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