Potential Side Effects and Contraindications of Cannabinoids
Side Effects: THC
The principle side effect of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, but not THCa) is psychoactivity or dysphoria in canines and felines. As a result, in any formulation of cannabinoids, THC is always the limiting or baseline factor for pet safety.
Interestingly, there is no LD50 in dogs for THC (>3000 mg/kg THC). This is markedly different than most if not all manufactured pharmaceutical prescription and OTC products used for pets.
Dogs in particular have higher amounts of CB1 receptors in their cerebellum compared to any other species. When they receive excessive amounts of THC (either via accidental ingestion or overdose) they develop a unique toxicity known as Static Ataxia. Dogs with this condition frequently present with severe ataxia and a sawhorse stance.
Excessive THC exposure in dogs and cats can also result in:
- Urinary incontinence
- Severe lethargy
- Changes in heart rate
The majority of dogs experiencing intoxication after THC ingestion recover completely with supportive care and monitoring. Dogs with severe clinical signs may require the use of intravenous fluids.
Side Effects: CBD
CBD has very few side effects in both humans and veterinary patients. A recent study found that CBD was found to be well tolerated in dogs at a dose of 10-20 mg/kg/day. This is significantly higher then the typical concentrations found in most products. The only hematological effect is an elevation in serum ALP, which may be related to cholestasis but the exact cause is unknown. Other side effects include mild gastrointestinal signs (diarrhea) and mild sedation.
Cannabis is a vasodilator and, as such, can result in tachycardia. In older pets and pets with any cardiovascular disease, caution must be used in formulating THC and CBD potencies and ratios to reduce instances of tachycardia.
Cannabis products for pets that are properly calibrated for the breed, age and comorbidities of the pet can often be used safely along with most pharmaceutical products. However, caution must be used when cannabis extracts are used with these medications:
- Blood thinners including Warfarin
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