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Cannabis poisoning in pets is on the rise

In a new study, experts surveyed veterinarians in the United States and Canada to determine the number of cases of cannabis poisoning in animals. The results suggest that the incidence of cannabis poisoning among pets is on the rise. 

The research was carried out by Richard Quansah Amissah of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph and colleagues.

Previous evidence suggests that cases of pets being poisoned by cannabis are increasing, yet little was actually known about the true extent of this phenomenon. To investigate, the researchers asked 251 veterinarians based in Canada or the United States some questions during 2021. The questions were designed to elucidate how cannabis poisoning has changed over the last few years.  

After analyzing the survey results, the researchers concluded that cannabis poisoning has increased significantly both in the US and Canada, particularly since the 2018 legalization in Canada. This could mean that the cases were more likely to be reported after legalization, or that more poisoning cases were actually occurring, according to the researchers.

Unintended consumption of cannabis was the leading cause of poisoning cases, but it remains unclear whether the cannabis was sometimes purchased for medicinal use in animals. The most common animals who suffered from cannabis poisoning were dogs, but there were also cases involving cats, iguanas, ferrets, cockatoos and horses. 

Most of the animals fully recovered. A small percentage of pets died, but there were underlying factors that possibly contributed to their deaths. While the danger is small, it is still very real, making the research all that much more important.

“This is an important topic to study in the light of recent legalization of cannabis in Canada and across multiple states,” said the researchers.

“In order to understand the mechanisms underlying cannabis-induced toxicosis in pets, and to develop treatments for it, we need to first understand what it looks like; this is what we had hoped to accomplish with this survey, and believe that these findings will help us get a better handle on this under-studied topic.”

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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