Cannabis (Marijuana) and Dogs: Important Things You Should Know

With marijuana becoming legalized in Canada this year, it is important to know how this might affect your pets.

Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant, and this plant is made up of many different compounds. The plant itself has been used in many different ways, from fibres for clothes to oils and medicines for ailments. The two most important components of the plant are 1) Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 2) Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychotropic component that is associated with the ‘high’ that humans experience; this is what is technically referred to as marijuana. This component is highly toxic to dogs. CBD is the non-psychotropic component found in hemp and is the most medically useful. All cannabis products contain a mixture of these two components in varying amounts. This is a very important thing to be aware of because products that are said to contain only CBD, likely still contain a certain amount of THC.

All animals have cannabinoid receptors in their body. These are how we process cannabis products that are ingested. Dogs have higher numbers of these receptors than humans and other animals. This makes them MUCH more sensitive to cannabis, specifically THC/marijuana than people. This is also why marijuana is considered toxic to dogs and should be avoided.

Signs of marijuana toxicity in dogs include depression, drooling, shaking, weakness, vomiting, urinary incontinence, bradycardia (low heart rate) and hypothermia (low body temperature). At higher doses, some dogs can have seizures, tachycardia (high heart rate) and excitement. There is no specific antidote for marijuana toxicity in dogs. Therefore, treatment involves supportive care with IV fluids to help flush out the drug and treatment of other symptoms (nausea, excitement), as they arise. The majority of dogs will recover fully with the treatment of marijuana toxicity.

CBD products are being studied in humans and have been shown to be helpful with pain and inflammation. There are also studies showing CBD to be useful for epilepsy, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

There are currently no veterinary approved products containing CBD. These means that veterinarians are not legally allowed to prescribe any products containing CBD. This may change in the future, as more studies are done and as new products are refined.

If you are considering using any over the counter products containing CBD oil in your dog, use caution! Even if they are marketed for dogs and state, they only contain CBD they still may not be safe. As mentioned previously, most products will likely still contain a small amount of THC, which is toxic and could cause the above signs. Until veterinarians are legally allowed to prescribe CBD to their patients, using any CBD products is not recommended.

Written by Jessica Wilson, DVM