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With the legalization of cannabis for medical and, in some jurisdictions, adult recreational use, the plant and its derivatives are becoming common household items. As a result of those recent reforms, and the increase in cannabis-based products around the house, there has been a spike in toxicity of animals – an alarming trend that has veterinarians and pet owners on high alert.

Over the past six years alone, the Pet Poison Helpline has reported a 448 percent increase in cannabis cases, with the majority of those being attributed to dogs eating flower or edible forms of the drug. Alarmingly, cannabis toxicity, which is attributed mainly to the consumption of THC, can result in a low heart rate, difficulty walking, vomiting, exaggerated responses, dribbling urine, and even death. 

These types of incidents can be frightening for both pets and owners because there is currently no known antidote for an overdose. It is recommended that you immediately contact a veterinarian, who will be able to introduce a number of tools for helping the animal get through the clinical signs of cannabis toxicity. These options include regulating its temperature; anti-vomiting medication; introducing activated charcoal; monitoring his or her heart rate; and maintaining hydration.

For anyone looking to avoid those symptoms and the toxicity problem altogether, there are a number of safeguards that can easily be employed. There has been much talk about how to protect children from cannabis, particularly edibles, and some of the same strategies can be used to keep animals like cats and dogs safe from unwanted ingestion. 

Perhaps the easiest means of keeping pets out of your cannabis is to keep it out of reach, and to keep it locked up. There are dozens of lock boxes and “cannadors” (cannabis humidors) on the market that can certainly serve a dual purpose of saving pets and children from the misery of toxicity. While these are preferred over closets and cupboards, which can inevitably be left open, the former options work on a budget, and do a much better job than coffee and kitchen tables that are often easy for pets to access.

Another safeguard is to purchase your cannabis in packages, jars and tins that can’t easily be torn open. Many medical and adult recreational cannabis companies sell their products in sealed plastic containers with child-safety locks, and these can definitely help prevent toxicity, though not in all cases. Doubling down on safety precautions by using sealed containers and storing them in a lock box is the best solution. 

This last measure also speaks to being responsible with your cannabis purchases. Because many companies have the resources and take the time to package flowers and edibles appropriately, containers are often less easy to bite into than, say, a Glad bag provided by an illicit cannabis dealer down the street. Being smart and staying safe is an important rule to employ when medicating or using cannabis for recreational purposes.

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