Cannabis will be legal in Canada as of Wednesday, but veterinarians are warning pet owners not to leave their purchase around where their canine and feline friends can get into it.
Enid Stiles, a Montreal-based veterinarian, says cannabis intoxication can be a serious health hazard for cats and dogs.
CBC Montreal asked Dr. Stiles what pet owners need to know to keep their pets safe — and what to do if they do manage to get their paws on a pot stash.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How often do pets accidentally consume pot?
Cannabis intoxication is actually quite a big problem, and it's probably going to be on the rise now that we have legalization.
What's the worst that can happen to pets that consume cannabis?
One of the worst things we can see with cannabis intoxication are seizures and tremors, but those are the more serious effects. The more common things that we're going to see are that dogs or cats might seem kind of drunk: they might look spacey. Sometimes, they're peeing a little bit more than usual or going where they shouldn't be.
A good test in a lot of those cases for us is if we give them food, and they eat it with appetite. That tells us that cannabis is a possible toxin.
Say your pet has already gotten their paws on your cannabis. What do you do?
If you think your pet has gotten into your stash, the first thing to do would be to call the veterinarian or the emergency line veterinarian. Often, the vet is going to ask you to bring your pet in so they can monitor and assess how serious it is.
Obviously, if they're eating, able to walk around and look relatively OK, the vet may not require you to come in, but it's still good to touch base with your vet.
If any other signs appear — if they're really tired or unable to stand or have tremors or a seizure. you should definitely seek veterinarian attention.
In your practice, have you seen pets affected by cannabis?
I've actually seen quite a few cases — and I think that's pretty normal for most veterinarians.
The nice thing about cannabis legalization is that we're not going to have so many people that don't tell the truth about what their pet has gotten into. That's a huge problem, when pets get into these products, and their owners are not telling us what it is, and we have to get into a real investigation.
Are there any therapeutic benefits of cannabis for pets?
There's quite a bit of anecdotal use of CBD oils for dogs and cats therapeutically. But there isn't very much research out there right now.
Also, as veterinarians, it's illegal for us to prescribe these for pets. However, we're seeing more research coming out about how it can be used for pain, epilepsy and anxiety. But again, we don't have any certified products. We're hoping to see some changes soon.