One of the consequences of the relaxation of laws regarding marijuana possession in many parts of the country is an increase in emergency visits for pets that have ingested a toxic amount of marijuana or its derivatives, THC and CBD, both of which can cause significant disease or even death in pets.

In many cases, the victims are young dogs that have eaten edibles — candy or other confections containing the active ingredients. This is particularly troubling as these products may also contain chocolate, raisins or the artificial sweetener xylitol — ingredients that are dangerous on their own.

Cats, which can suffer the same effects as dogs, will more likely inject marijuana by eating the plant.

A wide range of signs or symptoms may signal a pet has ingested a toxic amount — dilated pupils, difficulty walking or incoordination, seizures and both fast and slow heart rates. Because of the difficulty in determining if a pet has, in fact, been exposed to marijuana, it’s vitally important for owners to be forthright about their pet and its potential ingestion of marijuana.

Veterinarians don’t have an ethical or legal obligation to report accidental toxicosis to any authority so legal repercussions should not be considered when owners are asked if their pet could have been exposed to marijuana.

While specific antidotes aren’t available, pets may be induced to vomit or receive oral charcoal treatments to minimize absorption of marijuana products. In most cases, supportive care is advised although pets that experience signs of hypexcitibility may need sedatives or drugs for a too-slow or too-fast heart rate.

It’s important for owners to realize that pets are not small people and the effects of marijuana on their pet can be serious. Always be prepared to give a complete and honest account of your pet’s risk of exposure should an emergency occur.

Questions? Send them to Dr. Sandeman, Home & Garden, Quad-City Times, 500 E. 3rd St., Davenport, IA 52801. Or, email to papertrained@mchsi.com. Dr. Sandeman cannot answer letters or email personally, but questions of general interest will be answered in this column.

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