(CBS Local) — As decriminalization of marijuana spreads across the country, the American Veterinary Medical Association is warning pet owners of the dangers legal pot poses to their furry friends, especially dogs.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in marijuana that produces a high for humans, is toxic to dogs, according to the AVMA. It can cause vomiting, incoordination, depression, sleepiness or excitation, low blood pressure, low body temperature and seizures.
Edible products — such as pot brownies, candy bars and other baked goods — are a particular concern because they are often mixed with other products such as chocolate, raisins or sugar-free sweeteners such as xylitol, which are also poisonous to dogs.
“We’ve seen a marked increase in any state that has legalized marijuana, where there’s been a huge spike in the amount of cases of animals coming into veterinary hospitals, clearly under the effects of marijuana,” AVMA President Dr. John de Jong told Capitol News Illinois.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Poison Control Center reported a 765% increase in calls about marijuana ingestion by animals during the first few months of 2019 over the same period the previous year and calls to the Pet Poison Helpline have soared 448% in the past six years.
De Jong said he was not aware of any immediate deaths of animals caused by marijuana ingestion, but the toxicity of THC to dogs can cause serious damage.
“If they got enough of it (THC), it could probably cause enough damage to the liver or kidney system to have long lasting effects that might eventually kill them,” he said.
Smoking in the same room as a pet could also be dangerous, although the evidence of ambient smoke affecting pets is more anecdotal.
If a pet does show signs of marijuana toxicity — such as poor balance, rigidness, nervousness, vocalizing, seizures, drooling or dribbling urine — de Jong said get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive chemical compound extracted from cannabis and hemp plants, is being marketed to pet owners for a variety of ailments. But veterinarians are not allowed to recommend CBD to patients and the experts advise caution.