The recreational use of marijuana, although legal in Canada, should be used with caution around your pets to avoid the harmful side effects that can easily occur if ingested. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, they have seen a 448 per cent increase in marijuana cases over the last six years, with most cases stemming from laced food products.
Symptoms can show up immediately and last for several hours after your cat or dog has eaten or inhaled the substance. Furthermore, if your dog eats chocolate laced with cannabis, this could likely create an even worse situation depending on the amount of theobromine, the chemical in chocolate that is toxic to dogs.
Lisa Cunningham, a veterinarian with the Moose Jaw Animal Clinic, explains what she is seeing.
"It's one of the more common toxicities that we do see. I don't think we've seen an increase yet but we're a pretty small clinic and we don't see a lot of cases, so it would be hard to give you a global number. In the other places that have had legalization, they have seen increased numbers."
"It's not the worst toxicity; most cases are pretty mild and respond to conservative care. They get very abnormal looking, they may fall over and can't walk, they sometimes can't eat, [and] in more severe cases you could see seizures, vomiting or diarrhea and it can get to the point where they have trouble breathing which is when it gets dangerous and can be fatal."
In any case, it is always advised to call your Veterinarian as soon as you can to get further instructions, even before you induce vomiting, your vet will be able to assess the description of symptoms and also instruct you on proper protocol thereafter. In the event you can not get a hold of a vet, the Pet Poison Helpline will also be able to provide assistance.
"Generally I'd say give us a call, we'll get an idea from the dose as to how to proceed. Sometimes we can induce vomiting at home but most of the time they do need to come in and at least get assessed."
According to an article on canadawestvets.com, dogs can have a more severe reaction to THC containing substances than humans, as they have more cannabinoid brain receptors. Cats too can also experience the toxic effects; however, is more pronounced in dogs and even second-hand smoke can cause symptoms to occur.
All pet owners should do their due diligence to keep any cannabis products in a place your pet cannot get to them. Veterinary industry professionals are in the process of lobbying for the labelling on marijuana packages to include warnings to users to keep the substance away from pets.