The Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA) is cautioning cannabis users to keep their pot away from pets, but said treating animals could actually become easier after the drug becomes legal.
The legalization of marijuana, which the Federal Liberal government has promised on July 1, will almost certainly mean more marijuana in more Saskatchewan homes. SVMA President Dr. Lesley Sawa said Saskatchewan vets are concerned there could be an increase in cases after legalization, as the drug becomes more common. On the other hand, Sawa said treating the animals could become much easier after the drug is legalized, because after people will be truthful if their pet consumes marijuana.
“If it is legalized, I’m sure people would be more honest,” Sawa told paNOW. “That’ll make our job a whole lot easier.”
When a pet owner cannot or will not say what their pet consumed, Sawa said the veterinarians have to treat the animals based only on the visible signs. Knowing exactly what happened lets the vet begin treatment much sooner, she said, which speeds up the treatment process and recovery.
Dogs are especially attracted to the scent of marijuana, Sawa said, while cats are not as strongly drawn to the drug. In her 25 years of practice, she said she has seen approximately 20 cases of animal marijuana ingestion.
When a dog consumes marijuana, it does not affect them in the same manner as humans, Sawa said. Animal marijuana consumption can lead to reduced respiration and body temperature, as well as unresponsiveness and, in very rare cases, death. Sawa said veterinarians typically induce vomiting in the animal and then administer highly-absorbent activated charcoal to reduce the amount of marijuana entering the animal’s system.
“A lot of the signs will pass on their own,” she said, “but often times it causes such debilitation to the dog that people are really worried.”
Sawa said she’s hoping marijuana legalization comes with increased public education, which will promote responsible storage and reduce the rates of accidental ingestion by animals. Cannabis users should be aware that their pets can be attracted to pot, she said, and should be able to recognize the signs of animal consumption.
Most people are already quite careful with their prescribed medications, she said, and a spike in accidental animal consumption is unlikely if users treat marijuana with the same caution.
“I think people will be pretty careful with their drugs,” she said. “Keep it away from a pet, up in a cupboard or somewhere they just cannot get it.”
--With files from The Canadian Press
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