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Sick As a Dog: The Pets That Polish Off Littered Cannabis

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jan 23, 2019   
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Some Californian dogs are reported to be having a ruff time with the state’s recreational laws.

Many pet owners are reporting that their cherished canines are falling ill after ingesting the many used cannabis products that now litter the state’s parks and public pathways. 

Left by inconsiderate users, these half-finished cannabis items can make dogs severely agitated, causing them to lose coordination, harm themselves, and projectile vomit. 

Consequently, Californian veterinary hospitals have seen a surge in cannabinoid intoxicated pets since recreational laws came into effect at the beginning of 2018. In serious cases, the animal will require restorative fluids and even a stomach pump. 

These nasty side effects are likely due the cannabis scraps’ levels of THC, as the CBD-infused pet product market continues to grow with few cases of intoxication.  

With precious little research into cannabis’ effects on animals, vets are still urging owners to be cautious of their pets’ cannabis intake. 

Barking up the wrong THC

“People come to Wine Country,” says Lisa Mattson, speaking to The Press Democrat, “and indulge in legalized cannabis. When it comes time to head home, they toss it out, not realizing that roaming pets and wild animals may be attracted to it.”

Mattson had a scare back in December when she had to take her Italian greyhound, Dante, to the emergency animal hospital after he gobbled some leftover cannabis in a vineyard and began projectile vomiting. In the past several years, Pet Poison Helpline has seen a 448 percent increase in such cannabis-related cases.  

Fortunately, after a positive test for THC, Dante received his fluid treatment and was lapping up doggie ice cream before anyone could say munchies.  

Dante’s story might sound like a unique and humorous anecdote, but thanks to California’s booming cannabis market and consumer carelessness, the number of stoned animals in the state is at an all-time high. 

Despite this, few vets have any knowledge of how cannabis affects animals. The subject isn’t taught in US veterinary schools and vets can’t even legally discuss the drug with clients – a law that will be slightly amended come January 1st, 2020. 

But before then, the law remains an impediment for any vet looking to properly advise a concerned pet owner. 

“I hope that we will be able to move legislation forward more quickly so that needed studies can allow us to help our patients,” says Dr. Karl E. Jandry, an Associate Professor of Clinical Small Animal Emergency at UC Davis. 

A dog’s breakfast 

But cannabis products aren’t always so damaging to four-legged customers. 

Just as over-ingesting THC can lead to the unfortunate symptoms also experienced in humans (agitation, vomiting, etc.), pets consuming CBD can also experience the beneficial properties the drug is famed for.   

“CBD has a lot of beneficial medical properties” for dogs, says Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinarian in Oakland, California. “I’ve seen animals that have fewer seizures.” 

But Californian pet lovers don’t need Dr. Richter’s expertise to further tempt them towards CBD-infused pet treats. The market is already booming. From biscuits to bones, balms to butter, The Golden State now has more cannabinoid canine treats than you could shake a stick at. 

In 2017 alone, sales of pet cannabis products from medical and adult-use cannabis dispensaries were estimated to reach nearly $7 million in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, according to BDS Analytics.

One San Francisco start-up, Rowley’s Good Stuff, which sells tubes of CBD-infused peanut butter for dogs, was founded by Mike O’Reilly and Christina O’Reilly after their giant Leonberger, Rolo, suffered from painful bone cancer in the last few months of his life. “He licked it right up and all of a sudden he’d be asleep like a baby,” says Mr. O’Reilly. 

But while positive testimonies like Mr. O’Reilly’s now dog the state, the evidence for their effects is still lacking. 

Due to its federally illegal state, research involving cannabinoid use in pets is sparse. And, when tested by the FDA, many “CBD-containing” pet products were found to have no levels of the cannabinoid whatsoever.  

Ultimately, until research catches up, pet owners are advised to be wary of littered THC-containing products and feeding their darling dogs any CBD-infused products. Biter safe than sorry. 

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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