With the coming legalization of marijuana looming closer and closer, Dr. Lana Keating and her husband Tim are warning pet owners about the dangers of the substance.
Dr. Keating and Tim own the Parkland Veterinary Hospital in Sylvan Lake and say they have noticed more and more pets, particularly dogs, coming in sick from ingesting the plant.
“Dogs are more susceptible to the toxicity in marijuana,” said Dr. Keating. “We are seeing an increase in dogs coming in sick from it.”
The concern is with recreational marijuana, not medicinal, Tim explained.
Recreational cannabis is the concern when it comes to pets because it has large quantities of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound.
THC is toxic in pets, most particularly in dogs, whereas cannabidiol (CBD), found in medical marijuana is not as toxic.
“The strains react differently in animals than they do in humans. In the case of THC it results in the animal becoming very sick,” said Dr. Keating.
With an increase in the use of marijuana expected after July 1, when legislation is passed to legalize cannabis across the country, veterinarians are preparing themselves for an expected increase of sick dogs.
The effects of THC could happen within minutes of ingesting the product, or it could take a few hours for symptoms to appear, according to Dr. Keating.
“You may not know right away if your dog is sick or if it ingested marijuana, that is part of the danger,” Dr. Keating said.
Symptoms pets have displayed after ingesting marijuana include: increased salivation, increased urination, tremors and possibly coma.
In very rare cases recreational marijuana could be fatal in pets.
Treatment for pets who have ingested the plant is entirely supportive care, including placing the animal on an IV.
“There is no cure for this. We bring them in and care for them until it passes,” said Dr. Keating.
Dr. Keating says the main problem with marijuana is when the pet ingests the plant. With the legislation stating residents are allowed to grow up to two plants in their house, the possibility of a pet getting into it is very likely.
“I would suggest keeping the plants somewhere your pets can’t get at them. Up high or out of the way are options,” she said. “People know their pets best, so caution is definitely recommended.”
Caution is also required around pets while smoking or vapping the product. Just like children, pets are affected by second hand smoke as well
Bird especially are affected by smoke, of all types.
“Cats are affected by marijuana, though not as much as dogs. This is simply because cats or more discerning of what they eat,” said Dr. Keating.
Both Dr. Keating and Tim have concerns over the legislation and land use bylaws in municipalities.
According to the provincial legislation, no distribution centre can be within 100 metres of a school, park or hospital.
The Keatings are concerned animals are not mentioned within the legislation.
“Distribution centres cannot be within 100 metres of a park or hospital, but what about a animal hospital?” Tim said.
“These animals are greatly effected by marijuana and should be considered in the bylaws as well.”
The two would like to see Sylvan Lake’s land use bylaws include animal hospital and dog parks on the list of set backs.
Dogs are likely to eat something off the ground, including a butt from a marijuana joint.
“Really anywhere with animal in regular attendance,” said Tim adding places like kennels and doggy day cares should be given consideration.
Both have given their input to the Town through the online survey, which is now closed.
They say they will be present for the Town’s open house on April 11, which will go over the findings from the cannabis survey.
“Let’s not forget about our pets, they are part of our families too,” said Tim.