Ingestion of human waste containing THC may lead to cannabis toxicosis in dogs

29th November 2021

A recent study concluded that dogs could be getting intoxicated off cannabis by eating the faeces of people who have consumed the drug, putting them at risk.

The authors of the study titled “Marijuana toxicosis in dogs in Melbourne, Australia, following suspected ingestion of human faeces: 15 cases (2011–2020)” found that human poop-eating dogs could, in fact, be in grave danger.

They reviewed medical records from four, 24-hour veterinary emergency hospitals and found 15 dogs suspected of ingestion of human faeces containing THC in a 10-year span, between 2011 and 2020.

Of the 15 dogs in the study, eight tested positive for THC through a urine test. It is reported that the dogs presented symptoms of ataxia (problems with coordination and balance), mydriasis (unusual pupil dilation), hyperaesthesia (heightened sensitivity of senses), urinary incontinence and stupor.

Study author Clara Lauinger told Marijuana Moment: “The animals in my study had ingested an unknown quantity of faeces that contained an unknown concentration of THC and so one would assume this concentration would be at a level that clearly caused toxicity.

“However this does not mean that all THC ingestions can lead to toxicity.

“There are so many anecdotal reports of the huge benefits that THC administration has on animals, albeit reports are from owners perception rather than peer reviewed research, but this does not mean the industry should disparage THC as a therapeutic agent.”

However, dogs (or any other pets) should not really be consuming cannabis if not necessary: according to the VCA, dogs have more cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), in their brains than humans do. These receptors can be found on cell surfaces in the body.

While CB2 is believed to regulate inflammation, CB1, which is concentrated in the brain, central nervous system, and some other organs, is apparently responsible for most of the effects of the cannabis.

Regardless of the amount of THC that is into the animals’ system, the effects might still be more dramatic and potentially more toxic when compared to us.

Moreover, as discussed, dogs have more cannabinoid receptors, therefore it’s easier for them to overdose, leading to fatal consequences.

While low-dosage may not hurt the animals too much we cannot be sure what’s the limit. In this study, researchers said all the dogs survived to discharge.

The researchers said: “In conclusion, this case series suggests that ingestion of faeces produced by a human cannabis user may lead to signs of marijuana toxicosis.

“Clinical signs of toxicosis were similar to those previously reported for dogs with confirmed marijuana toxicosis though gastrointestinal signs were not the most common feature despite coprophagy.

“Veterinary staff and owners should be mindful of this exposure source to ensure appropriate hygiene measures are taken when managing these dogs.”

Meanwhile, the popularity of cannabis products designed specifically for dogs is on the rise. However, the vast majority of these products contain little to no THC, with manufacturers instead touting the benefits of the non-intoxicating CBD.

While a growing number of studies, alongside anecdotal evidence, suggests that CBD could be beneficial to pets for the management of symptoms associated with epilepsy and arthritis, pet owners should remain vigilant about the potential risks. Currently, in the UK, no CBD products for pets have received accreditation by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).

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