Pet Pot Poisoning Cases Increase After Marijuana Legalization

Pets are becoming the unfortunate victims of pot poisoning.

Pet pot poisoning incidents are on the rise.
Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images

Pets are becoming the unfortunate victims of pot poisoning.

After Oregon legalized marijuana for recreational use, the number of pets poisoned by pot has risen. Recently, the U.S. Federal Law has been looking into the health benefits marijuana can bring to pets suffering from seizures, anxiety, and other illnesses. Studies show that many pet owners have turned to marijuana to treat their lovable furries. However, the increase in pet pot poisoning cases in Oregon may dissuade the U.S. Federal Law from allowing veterinarians to prescribe pot-based treatments to their patients.

According to The Bulletin, Oregon has seen an increased number of cases of pot poisoning in animals. In fact, The Pet Poison Helpline — a 24-hour animal poison control hotline — has estimated a 448 percent increase in poisoning cases caused by marijuana from 2012 to 2018.

Experts seem to attribute the rise of pet pot poisoning cases to recent laws which legalized the sale of recreational marijuana. For instance, Dr. Adam Stone, who works at the Bend Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center, has reported that staff sees at least one to three pets — usually dogs — with symptoms of marijuana poisoning in every 12-hour shift.

The symptoms of pot poisoning include nausea which could lead to vomiting, lethargy, urine dribbling, instability, and even comatose. It must be noted that pot poisoning in dogs is not lethal, but it can lead to fatal complications. The uncertain effects of marijuana toxicity in pets may be the reason the U.S. Federal Law does not allow veterinarians to prescribe marijuana-based treatments.

Despite the law’s aversion to pot for pets, more and more owners have turned to marijuana to treat their furry companions, based on a 2018 nationwide survey by veterinary medicine researchers from Colorado State University. According to Reuters, the survey had 1,068 participants and about 80 percent of the respondents admitted to purchasing hemp or marijuana products for their pets.

A high percentage of the pet owners who participated in the survey reported that pot products were more effective in treating anxiety and relieving pain in their pets compared to the usual medicines.

Based on the rise in pet pot poisoning cased in Oregon and the survey by Colorado State University, it is evident that animals can have strikingly different reactions to marijuana. Dr. Curt Nitzchelm, a resident at Redmond Veterinary Clinic, may have the answer to why animals, especially pets, respond differently to pot products.

According to Dr. Nitzchelm, most dogs brought in for pot poisoning have consumed a high concentration of a psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, a cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC.

“It’s usually dogs, and it’s usually edible products. From what I understand they have a higher concentration of marijuana or the active ingredient. Most of the cases that we see, it’s been the higher concentrated products like butter, and edibles, brownies, those type of things,” Dr. Nitzchelm said.

In contrast to the dogs brought in for pot poisoning, those treated with marijuana consume CBD products. CBD is a plant extract called cannabidiol. Reuters explains that CBD is more associated with pain relief whereas THC in high concentration is responsible for the “high” feelings caused by marijuana. Researchers at Colorado State University found that pet owners specifically look for CBD products to treat their furry friends.

It must be noted that the different effects THC and CBD have on pets and animals, in general, have not been thoroughly studied.