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Cannabis should come with warning labels for pet owners, veterinarians say

Veterinarians are urging pet parents to be mindful of where they place marijuana, as it can be harmful to cats and dogs.

With Oct. 17 just around the corner, health officials are urging lawmakers to ensure that dispensaries add custom labels to their cannabis products, informing pet parents that marijuana can be lethal if their dogs or cats consume it.

As reported by CTV News, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association issued a memo to Canadian legislators earlier this year, which emphasized the seriousness of the adverse effects marijuana can have on domesticated animals.

Troye McPherson, CVMA president, pointed to the U.S. as an example of what can happen when cannabis doesn’t contain labeling that informs consumers of its toxicity to pets.

“In the United States where some states have legalized cannabis, there has been a significant rise in reports of ingestion and toxicity in animals, particularly dogs,” McPherson warned. “There is evidence suggesting that the species is very sensitive to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”

Because of this risk, McPherson urged Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Secretariat Eric Costen to require resellers to include warning labels that recreational marijuana contains this potentially toxic THC ingredient.

Classic Symptoms of Cannabis Toxicity in Pets

Pets – particularly kittens and puppies – are much like toddlers, in that they can touch and get into things that they shouldn’t with little warning. As a result, veterinarians urge dog and cat owners to ensure that their consumables are stored somewhere out of reach. Classic indications that animals may have eaten cannabis in excessive amounts include lethargy, dilated pupils, instability and vomiting. More serious manifestations are passing out, seizures and in rare instances death. 

Dog owner Mike Knippel learned of these symptoms the hard way when his dog, Hilo, got a hold of it somehow.

“He was unsteady on his feet,” Knippel told CTV News. “It looked like he was going to tip over. His head shied away from our hands when we went to pet his head.”

Initially, according to Knippel he and his wife first thought Hilo’s symptoms were due to his old age, but they took him to the vet to see what was the matter. That’s when the doctor explained what was causing Hilo’s unusual behaviors. Knippel has a feeling his dog happened upon cannabis when he was off-leash at a dog park near to his home.

Knippel said that labels can help people understand that despite the official legalization of cannabis in mid-October, it can still be harmful – and not just in pets.

“I am concerned that legalization could cause these types of challenges for not just dogs, but also children in public spaces that might come across a cookie or something,” Knippel told CTV News. He added that the ultimate onus falls on the people who use marijuana, meaning that it comes with responsibility and keeping it out of reach of pets and young children.

Pet Population On The Rise

Pets have always been a part of the Canadian fabric, but they’ve become more prevalent among households in recent years. According to the Canadian Animal Health Institute, there are 8.8 million registered cats nationwide and 7.6 million dogs, based on the most recent statistics available. That’s up from 7 million and 6.4 million, respectively, in 2014. Over the last decade, the cat and dog population has risen approximately 10 percent, with 41 per cent of households having one or more dogs and 37 percent at least one cat.

There’s no indication as to when, or if, Health Canada will require cannabis products to carry toxicity label warnings, CTV News reported. 

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