Not a sentence I ever thought I'd write, but: the issue of animals eating cannabis is becoming an increasingly relevant one.
Last year, weed culture organ The Cannabist reported that the number of people posing questions to answer.com about marijuana and pets had risen by 65 percent, with a connection being made to weed's increasingly widespread legalisation throughout America. Yesterday, VICE Canada reported that vets are preparing to deal with an increase of pets being poisoned by cannabis when recreational weed becomes legal there in October. So, you see, it is A Thing.
Because it's a thing, I called Gudrun Ravetz – Senior Vice President of the British Veterinary Association – to find out how dangerous weed actually is for our tiny adorable friends.
VICE: How toxic is cannabis to animals?
Gudrun Ravetz: Cannabis is toxic to any animal, in exactly the same way it is with humans. The thing with animals is they vary hugely in size, so some can reach toxic levels much quicker than humans. Also, their body physiologically can do different things. So you take something we class as harmless, like chocolate; that's poisonous to dogs thanks to the way it breaks down in the body. As it stands, we don't have any formal research with cannabis, though.
What symptoms are they likely to experience?
They are often present as neurological signs. They can be depression or ataxia [a vestibular disease that causes an unbalanced gait], seizures, tremors and behavioural changes. They might go into a stupor, but they may also become hyperactive. You'll often get gastrointestinal signs, so you'll get sick or quite unwell.
What are "depressions"?
They go pretty flat out. They don’t want to do much. They won't come when you call their name. Maybe they’ll urinate in the house. They'll just be pretty depressed-looking.
You talked about possible hyperactivity. Is that a physical effect of the weed or because they are feeling confused?
We don't know, because it's not something we'd put to a research paper. But if animals are confused and feeling a way they don't understand, this could lead to hyperactivity.
Could an animal die from weed?
There is always a danger of death, giving an animal something they shouldn't have, whether it's marijuana, chocolate or ibuprofen. But if you get prompt treatment and give as much information as possible, the outcomes can be much better. But if you look at animals that are having a seizure, seizures themselves are dangerous, so the symptoms can cause really harmful effects.
Is there any chance the animals will enjoy the experience of being stoned?
It's not a pleasant outcome for the animals. It's not a pleasant experience and they shouldn't be going through it.
Would the effects be more profound on a smaller animal, like a hamster or a rabbit?
You're more likely to get to toxic levels quicker. Take the example of a child: if a child was younger it would be more of a concern if they'd taken a drug, whether it was legitimate or not.
if you smoked in the house, could your pet get stoned though secondhand smoke?
Again, no tests have been done, but we would presume they can. If you look at nicotine and second-hand smoking, dogs can ingest that. You find it in hair samples. So there's no reason why they couldn't.
Do people ever act like they’re not sure why their animal has gotten sick, when it's actually through them eating weed?
That is the most problematic thing for us. Some people will come in with an animal and – fairly understandably – they don't want to tell us. But the most important thing is that we know. The vets aren't there to judge. They don't care. The easiest way to treat is to give us all the info straight away
What about other drugs? Are these more dangerous for animals?
I've never seen anything with ecstasy, but have seen a few instances with cocaine. It's pretty awful for pets, and they are at a fairly high risk of death, usually through very high heart rates. As with anything – whether it's aspirin, contraception tablets, any medication you wouldn't let a toddler take – it has to be the same for pets. Keep them away.
Absolutely. Thanks, Gudrun!