October 17, 2018

Cannabis Became Legal Today. Let’s all Take a Deep Breath.

Today, cannabis use became legal in Canada.  Depending on your world-view, you may believe that cannabis use is immoral and dangerous, or that it is a risk-free cure for a long list of diseases. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, if you love your pets, you will want to know how this may affect them.

There have been a number of studies on the effect of cannabis exposure in animals. In summarizing the conclusions in Veterinary Practice News, Dr. Brennen McKenzie wrote, “It is clear that marijuana exposure can have toxic effects on pets. They range from mild to severe, though exposure is rarely fatal.”

Of course, this is also true of chocolate, and grapes and raisins. Our friends at the American SPCA, the leaders in tracking toxicity in pets, list 22 common foods that are toxic to pets to one degree or another. There are other lists: medications, house plants and household products—dozens of common items in our homes that can poison our pets.

Nonetheless, you should be concerned. Pet owners need to take steps to ensure that Fluffy and Buster don’t have access to their cannabis. The need for vigilance will increase in a year’s time, when edible cannabis products come onto the market. This is especially true for those with dogs, who are generally more indiscriminate in what they eat than cats. But we need to be vigilant with many foods, plants, and products commonly found in homes today to protect our pets.

There have been a number of reports of people using cannabis or cannabis-derived products medicinally for their pets.  This is worrisome, given the complete absence of regulation or testing for veterinary cannabis-derived remedies. Even in human medicine, there is a dearth of research into the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine in the U.S. evaluated all the research available and concluded that, to date, cannabis has conclusively shown to have only two therapeutic benefits in humans: reduction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and the treatment of chronic pain.  Legalization will almost certainly open avenues for research into the potential benefits of these products for pets and humans.


Bruce Roney

President and CEO