Pet owners should prevent their pets from accidentally consuming cannabis, but if that does happen, veterinarians say they should be truthful about it.
“I’m hopeful that owners may feel less embarrassed or nervous to tell us if they think their pet has been exposed to cannabis because, still, there is a bit of a stigma associated with it,” said Dr. Shannon Murphy, a veterinarian at Metro Animal Emergency Clinic in Dartmouth N.S., on Thursday.
“Cannabis toxicity is very common. It is one of the most common toxicities that we see here, and it’s primarily dogs that we see affected by it, and we do see usually multiple cases in a week.”
Common symptoms including difficulty walking, lethargy, and urinary incontinence, she said.
Usually, the cases are mild, but enough cannabis and no subsequent treatment could be fatal, Murphy said.
She suggested keeping cannabis locked up in a cupboard far above the ground. Pets can also be impacted by secondhand smoke, so they should be removed from the room the smoke is located in.
Dr. Enid Stiles, a veterinarian and an executive committee members at the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, said in an interview over FaceTime in Montreal on Thursday that she’s noticed more people giving their pets cannabidiol (CBD) oil to consume.
The oil comes from cannabis and is used in the hopes of relieving pain and helping with other issues.
Stiles said veterinarians aren’t legally allowed to prescribe it, but owners still provide it.
“We have to be very judicious in the use of these particular products. At this point, we don’t really have very much in the way of research indicating that these are appropriate drugs to be used in dogs and cats,” she said.
To ensure the best possible treatment for pets, transparency is key, including regarding accidental consumption by pets, she said.
Both veterinarians said doctor-patient confidentiality is a priority, and there is no need to inform police about these kinds of accidents unless they suspect harm was done on purpose.