Pet Projects

VETERINARIANS CAUTION: Medical Marijuana Exposure In Pets

From the Canadian Veterinary
Medical Association

Marijuana has been prominent in pet news recently due to the rise of medical marijuana use in people and its impending legalization in Canada. It is important for you to know about these products since the probability of your pet becoming exposed is increasing.

The Effects Of Using Medical Marijuana In Pets Is Not Well Studied To Date

It appears dogs are proportionately more sensitive to the active compounds in marijuana than people. An American study in 2012 by Meola and others reported increased rates of toxicity seen in dogs living in Colourado, a state with recent legalization of marijuana. In fact a four-fold increase in toxicities was reported between 2010 and 2015.

In small dogs, excessive intake can easily result in signs of toxicity, as listed below. Cats are not immune to toxic side effects, but are much more selective in their food intake. Cats generally avoid eating garbage, scavenging butts on walks around the block, or table or counter surfing, and they lack a sweet tooth so we do not see them take in “pot” products like dogs do.

Though, no pet is immune to respiratory irritation from side-stream smoke or purposeful cannabinoid product administration, with possible inadvertent (or, very rarely intended) overdose or illness resulting.

Signs Of Excess Cannabis Exposure In Pets Include:

  • Salivation
  • Sleepiness
  • Fast or slow heart rate
  • Depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Low body temperature
  • Wobbling, pacing and agitation
  • Vocalizing
  • Sound or light sensitivity
  • Inappropriate urination
  • Vomiting

Where Does Marijuana Come From?

Cannabis sativa L. plants are the source from which recreational and most medical marijuana products are prepared. Preparation includes drying of leaves and flowers. Different types of prepared marijuana have a range of levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the well-known psychoactive compound. “Marijuana” refers to products containing any bioactive cannabinoid compounds, of which THC is just one example.

Marijuana Can Be Broken Down Into Three Classes:

Recreational: The plants can be smoked or vaporized from the dried leaves and flowers, or used in baking and other oral preparations for humans. This class has the highest risk for pet toxicity due to high THC levels.

Medical: These products contain moderate to high CBD levels (cannabidiol, another cannabinoid; a non-psychoactive compound), and minimal to moderate THC. These medicinal products are used for antibacterial, gut-soothing and anxietysoothing treatments in people. They are also used for anti-nausea and vomiting, anti-oxidant, pain relieving and anti-itch properties in people in addition to the psychological effects. Medical marijuana may be prescribed for cancer, osteoarthritis, chemotherapy, epilepsy and certain inflammatory bowel conditions in humans.  There are many plant cannabinoids (80-113 different types reported), and CBD is the main cannabinoid selected for in most medical marijuana products. Human medical products do not emphasize psychological effects (THC), but rather promote proposed medicinal effects (CBD). Strong psychoactive effects of THC are not generally desired for human medicinal use. Some of these products contain enough THC to produce toxicity in pets.

Hemp: A different subspecies, industrial hemp, has been cultivated for centuries for its rich fibre. It has been used in textiles and paper. Hemp tends to be the plant type used for pet “medical cannabis;” most of those products are hemp oil, tincture or hemp powder. Some pet hemp oil products are available for legal purchase in Canada and Europe because the products contain either none or just a trace of THC, and they are derived from legal hemp plants.  Currently, pet hemp products are being promoted as aids for itching, anxiety, nausea, poor appetite, seizures, cancer, digestive problems, inflammation, immune disease and reduced mobility due to joint pain in animals. Hemp products do not get the pet “high,” but effective and safe dosages have not been studied. Hemp is very low in THC and contains minor to moderate CBD levels; there is currently insufficient research data to know rates or thresholds for toxicity.

Veterinarians Are Not Allowed To Prescribe Any Of These Products For Pets

Certain legal hemp products may be useful in pets according to some experts, but veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe any of these products for pets. In fact, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO) reminded its veterinarians that: “There are currently no *CBD products approved by Health Canada and therefore no legal pathway to obtain these products.” (*CBD refers to cannabidiol).

Pet owners who intend to administer these products without veterinary consultation, as some have done when traditional medicines have failed, are doing so even though no proven safe and effective doses have been published. Due to lack of suffi- cient evidence about effective, safe dosage and optimal frequency of administration in dogs and cats, owners should not dose their pets with any type of marijuana product. The only information we know for certain at this time is that dogs have a higher sensitivity to the same dose of cannabinoids when compared proportionately to people.

Further research is recommended to understand the safety and effectiveness of medical marijuana in veterinary medicine. For now, marijuana of any type is not approved for medicinal use in animals, and giving products to your pet may have unknown side effects and unproven effectiveness. Especially, exposing them to THC-rich recreational marijuana could put them in a life-threatening medical crisis.

Kathleen Cavanagh BSc DVM ME, CVMA Consultant Online Editor; Jennifer Kyes, DVM, DACVECC (Critical Care), Specialist Editor. 

 

QUATCHI ‘NOSE’ BEST

 

Hailey was sitting in class one day, watching a presentation. What she didn’t know was that she was about to experience a hypoglycemic episode. Coincidentally, the woman who was talking at the front of the class had brought her Diabetic Alert Dog Guide with her; during the presentation the dog alerted Hailey to her diabetic low. Hailey was amazed and couldn’t wait to tell her parents what had happened. After hearing Hailey’s story, her family promptly applied for a Dog Guide from Lions Foundation of Canada.
What makes type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness so dangerous is that Hailey’s body does not show any physical signs that her blood sugar is changing – or dropping. On a typical day,
Hailey needs to check her insulin levels 10 to 12 times. “It’s a helpless feeling,” Hailey says, “but it’s all I’ve ever known.” Hailey has learned how to look after herself over the years. She has taken on more responsibility than others her age.
“It really prevented Hailey from doing normal things that 12 year olds want to do, like going to sleepovers with friends,” says her mother, Christine. “Managing Hailey’s condition has been a full-time job for the whole family.”
Now with Hailey’s Dog Guide, the family is relieved knowing Quatchi is there to watch over her. Lions Foundation of Canada is a national charitable foundation, created by Lions Clubs across Canada, that matches clients like Hailey with specially trained Dog Guides. Its mission is to assist Canadians with a medical or physical disability by providing them Dog Guides at no cost. Since 1983, the Foundation has placed more than 2,500 Dog Guides with handlers across the country.
Each of these Dog Guides will cost approximately $25,000 to raise, train and place with a Canadian in need; yet these dogs are provided at no cost to qualified applicants. Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides does not receive any government funding and relies on the support of fundraising events and donations from corporations, individuals, service clubs, estates and foundations.
Its dog guide programs include:
Canine Vision Dog Guides
For people who are blind or visually impaired
Hearing Ear Dog Guides
For people who are deaf or hard of hearing
Service Dog Guides
For people with a physical disability
Seizure Response Dog Guides
For people who have epilepsy
Autism Assistance Dog Guides
For children (aged three to 12) on the autism spectrum
Diabetic Alert Dog Guides
For people who have type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness
The Diabetic Alert program was launched in 2013 and was the first internationally accredited program of its kind in Canada.
When Hailey’s blood sugar drops, Quatchi alerts her by jumping on her lap and nudging her arm. Quatchi barks for help when needed and is even trained to fetch objects like an insulin kit, juice boxes or the phone. Diabetic Alert Dog Guides are also trained to activate an alert system for handlers in an emergency.
“It’s nice knowing I can have him with me at all times,” says Hailey. “I have someone there to help me when I need it.” Thanks to Lions Foundation of Canada – and Dog Guides like Quatchi – more and more Canadians are able to enjoy an increased sense of safety, mobility and independence.
Sarah Miller is communications manager with the Lions Foundation of Canada/Dog Guides Canada. Angela Thibert is a communications volunteer at Dog Guides Canada. To learn more about the organization or to make a donation, visit www.dogguides.com

 

ONE LAST WALK

THE BELLO PROJECT HELPS THE TERMINALLY ILL WITH PET CARE, REHOMING SUPPORT

I am a passionate person who has made it my life’s work to prevent our friends, family and neighbours from walking the journey of a terminal illness alone. We have so few resources available to teach us how to care for each other on that final path, and I want to change that. When you deal with the reality of death and dying every day, you actually approach life much differently.
You understand that a good death comes from a life well lived, and so you make different decisions about your own life and look at your own mortality differently. My dog Bello was the inspiration for the Bello Project. When I thought about what would happen to him if I died before he did, it sent me into a panic. I had visions of being with Bello in my home, in my bed — and Bello being there when I died. I imagined the funeral home coming to get me and him sitting there having no idea what was happening. And then what? Someone would call animal control and he would be taken away in a van and put into a cage. The idea made me physically ill.
Considering most pet owners think of our pets as family, the idea of helping pets be part of the concept of dying well just made sense. Having someone die, worried about whether their family would then surrender or euthanize their pet seemed more inhumane than anything I could imagine. I started to imagine a better way.
I started to imagine The Bello Project.
The Bello Project offers basic care for pets to allow them to remain in their home along the entire span of a person’s illness. Basic care can include transportation of the pet for appointments, maintaining appropriate standards of care in feeding, walking and cleaning when the pet parent is too weak to maintain them and temporary overnight care when short hospital stays are required or if the person is well enough to make a final trip to see family. Our signature re-homing process allows the pet parent to hand pick the family their pet will go to upon their death.
Hospice is the best way to offer The Bello Project is because we can provide grief and bereavement counselling to everyone affected by a diagnosis. We support the individual anticipating the loss, the family who is feeling guilty about not being able to take their loved one’s pet, the new family who will likely form a bond with the person who is dying and the pet, by arranging with the funeral home to allow the pet to attend visitation and the funeral.
Regardless the length of the journey there is always the reasonable expectation that the doctor is going to utter the words, “There is nothing more we can do, it is time to put your affairs in order.” During this phase, grief counselling becomes legacy work and discussion on the re-homing part of the journey begins. The person who is dying maintains control of this process. Working with a grief counsellor, they paint a picture of their pet’s ideal new family. Options are presented and a family is chosen. Meet-and-greets take place to help with the selection.
When the selection has been made, the new family becomes part of the team that maintains appropriate standards of care. The grief counsellor now starts to work with the dying pet parent to allow for the transition to begin. Extended visits in the new family’s home help the pet get used to it’s new environment. The process of transition is the most important part for the pet and is the pet parents’ assurance that the family will not change their mind once they are wholly responsible for the care of this animal.
When death has occurred, the new family is called to take their pet home. No emergency measures and no cages! The family and the grief counsellor work to ensure that the pet’s grief journey is respected, and they will facilitate opportunities for the pet to visit their deceased pet parent at the funeral home and to attend the funeral.
Most importantly, The Bello Project comes at no cost to the pet parent or to the new re-homed family.
The Bello Project puts the control of their pet’s future firmly in the patient’s hands. The impact this has on the time the patient has remaining is so important because for them, everything feels out of their control. Allowing them to dictate the way and timeframe for saying goodbye to their pet is the greatest gift of all.
Find out more about the Bello Project at  www.homehospiceassociation.com. You can donate to support their work at www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/ home-hospice-association.