TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

Well it’s summer and the two-legged animals are out having fun with their four-legged family members.  In various parts of the country this might mean cooling off by frolicking around the pool, the lake or even the ocean.  If you have played ball with your dog around water, you might know how this game can go on forever…right?  If you keep throwing they will keep diving in and retrieving?

Well there are certain dangers with our pets that while are not common, when they do occur it is often deadly.  Hyponatremia is one of those conditions.  You have probably never heard of it, but it is essentially water intoxication.  We worry so much about keeping ourselves and our pets hydrated in the hot summer months, but this is when you take in TOO MUCH water.  The body of an animal (dog, cat or human) can only process a certain amount of fluid.  When there is more water going into the body than it can process the excessive fluid dilutes the other fluids in the body and this causes a dangerous imbalance.  Sodium is important and when sodium concentration in extracellular fluid drops, the cells start filling with water as the body attempts to balance the sodium levels inside the cells with falling levels outside the cells. This influx of water causes the cells – including those in the brain – to swell.

If these activities are occurring at the beach ingesting too much salt water is also a very serious condition called hypernatremia, which is technically the opposite of hyponatremia and is salt poisoning.  You will see the same quick deterioration and symptoms that dictate getting your pet to the emergency vet, but you need to make the vet aware that they were ingesting salt water.

Knowing how much your pup loves playing be very cautious of any change in behavior.  This condition materializes very quickly and is so dangerous.

Watch for any of these signs:

-loss of coordination

-sudden lethargy

-vomiting

-glassy looking eyes

-pale gums

-excessive slobbering

By the time you see difficulty breathing, collapse or seizure your pet is in serious trouble.  Get your pet to an emergency facility as soon as you see any signs and they can try treating this with (IV) electrolytes, diuretics, and medications to reduce brain swelling. With aggressive veterinary care, some dogs do recover, but tragically this condition often ends in death. 

Prevention is key here.  Just like children; our pets should absolutely be supervised around water. Be very aware of any activity that means your pet is opening their mouth when they are exposed to the water such as fetching a ball or even dogs that play and bite in the sprinklers.  When dogs are jumping in water or water coming out of a sprinkler the water is pressurized and you may not realize the volume of water that they are ingesting.  So, enjoy summer fun but if you are partaking in any of these activities limit the time spent exposing them to water without periods of rest in between.  Their body has got to have time to process the water that is being ingested.

Oils, diffusers oh my!

It seems the hot new thing is using a diffuser with various essential oils to take people away from their busy stress filled lives.  If you are thinking about one…consider your pets.  I have very nosey pets, so I do not even burn candles in my house but have considered a relaxing diffuser.  I have read some horror stories about animals losing their lives because of their pet parent using toxic oils.  I thought this topic deserved a deeper look.

The answer is not completely black and white.  As with many things; something in a large quantity can be dangerous but in a smaller quantity is perfectly safe.  We are often surprised when something natural can be toxic, but it absolutely can be.

I will first share with you the “PRO” side.  As I researched this topic there were two sources that I sourced for feedback.  The book  Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals and I interviewed Melissa Cash with “Young Living” who carries an animal specific line of oils.  Both sources provide some useful tips in how make the use of oils safe for your pets.  Before trying aromatherapy at home with your pets, keep these safety tips in mind—and be sure to check with your vet if you have any questions or concerns.

Dogs and cats are more sensitive to essential oils than we are, so even if you’re familiar with them for yourself, remember that it’s a different story with your pet.

  • Essential oils should always be diluted before use, even if just inhaling. Melissa says dilute, dilute, dilute!  Start small.
  • Do not add essential oils to your pet’s food or drinking water.
  • Avoid using essential oils with animals under 10 weeks of age.
  • Check with a holistic vet before using any essential oils on pregnant animals. Do not use stimulating oils (e.g. peppermint, rosemary, tea tree) on pregnant pets.
  • Do not use oils on animals with any history of epileptic symptoms. Some oils, such as rosemary, may trigger seizures (in humans too).
  • Do not use oils in or close to the eyes, in the ears, directly on or close to the nose, on mucous membranes, or in the anal or genital areas.
  • Also, never lock your animal in a room with the diffuser is going, it is important to allow your pet to move to another room if they are not enjoying the scent.
  • The Most important thing is to NEVER use low quality or adulterated/synthetic essential oils on or around animals (as it can be dangerous and toxic).

The five most common used oils with pets and the reported benefit:

  • Lavender:Universal oil, can use pure or diluted. Useful in conditioning patients to a safe space. May help allergies, burns, ulcers, insomnia, car ride anxiety and car sickness, to name a few.
  • Cardamom:Diuretic, anti-bacterial, normalizes appetite, colic, coughs, heartburn and nausea.
  • Chamomile:Anti-inflammatory, non-toxic, gentle and safe to use. Good for skin irritations, allergic reactions, burns.
  • Spearmint:Helps to reduce weight. Good for colic, diarrhea, nausea. Helps balance metabolism, stimulates gallbladder. Not for use with cats.
  • ThymePain relief, good for arthritis and rheumatism. Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, excellent for infections and other skin issues.

Now let’s look at the cautionary side. The first resource I need to source is the ASPCA animal poison control info center and hotline.  This is their official advice on essential oils:

Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils, and effects such as gastrointestinal upset, central nervous system depression and even liver damage could occur if ingested in significant quantities. Inhalation of the oils could lead to aspiration pneumonia. There are significant variations in toxicity among specific oils. Based on this, we would not recommend using essential oils in areas where your pets have access, unless pets are supervised, or the use of the oil is approved by your veterinarian. 

There are multiple vets that have authored info on this subject; we’ll look at a couple.  According to Dr. Wismer, “The most common symptoms for cats and dogs exposed to diffused essential oils are drooling, vomiting, coughing, and sneezing. Diffusing oils can be fatal to cats and dogs that have asthma or other respiratory issues.”

She said that any essential oil could be harmful to pets, depending on how much they’re exposed to and how. But the especially toxic oils, where pets are concerned, include wintergreen, d-limonene (citrus), pine, cinnamon, pennyroyal, eucalyptus, and tea tree.

It is important to note that some of the best natural grooming products contain tea tree oil. This is one of those instances when the amount of the ingredient makes a world of difference.  The amount used in well respected grooming products is completely safe.

Dr. Melissa Shelton, DVM is a multiple cat owner herself and does seem that there are even more reasons to be cautious around your cat.  She says; “Cats are well known for being deficient in a liver enzyme that most all other animals have which helps them process things efficiently (cytochrome p450). So, that means a cat’s liver doesn’t metabolize items in the same manner or efficiency as other animals or humans. This is true even for foods and traditional medicines…not just essential oils. Everything, synthetic and natural contains a therapeutic/toxic profile. This means that even good things in nature when taken in excess can be toxic.”

Everybody agrees on one thing…caution is completely necessary.  If you decide to try a diffuser in your home or any use of essential oils be very aware of your pet.  What might be relaxing for you could be deadly for your pet.  Watch for absolutely any change in behavior and consult with your vet.

Symptoms of essential oil poisoning have included:

  • Muscle tremors
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Low body temperature
  • Excessive salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive pawing at mouth or face
  • Drooling

Do you use oils for yourself?  Have you used them around your pets?

 

Ingredient Source…is it important?

This is a very broad question.   It seems like there are more things to think about when you are shopping for the best pet food these days.  Everybody tries to pay close attention to the ingredients on their pet food bag.  People have been trained to compare the percentage of protein and fat, they wonder is it supposed to be “whole chicken” or “chicken meal”.  Should it be grain free, gluten free…vegetarian?  If you as a consumer have to worry about where those ingredients come from that is another layer of complexity.

The source of the ingredients in your pet’s food can be important in some cases.  Let’s look at the main ingredient groups:

Vegetables, grains and fruits:  There is a marked divide between Americans and Europeans when it comes to the cultivation and regulation of genetically modified (GM) foods? In general, American farmers are more reliant on herbicides than Europeans, in part because Americans have moved away from the traditional practice of tilling etc.   But there are other countries (besides the US) where GMO crops are commonly grown, they include Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Bolivia, Philippines, Spain, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Colombia, Honduras, Chile, Sudan, Slovakia, Costa Rica, China, India, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Mexico, Portugal, Czech Republic, Pakistan and Myanmar.

GMO map

If GMO free is important to you identifying the source may be important you.  Ingredients sourced from countries that commonly use GMO’s doesn’t mean it will be genetically modified, but it certainly means you need to ask.  Need to learn more about GMO’s? Take a look back at our article on this subject in November of 2015.

Proteins: Animal based protein is what you will most commonly find in pet food.  A vegetarian diet is not recommended for cats and dogs.  So regardless of what protein source you choose…chicken, lamb or salmon.  These days maybe even exotic protein source such as kangaroo or alligator!  The question is should you wonder where your kangaroo comes from?  The goal is to choose the highest quality ingredient possible, regardless of which protein you feed.  These considerations about protein are important regardless of the type of pet food you choose.  Meaning there are good and inferior quality proteins whether you are feeding raw vs kibble or whole protein vs meal.  While learning the source alone will not tell you this; it might give you an indication as to how important quality is to the producer.  A couple of basic questions that might give you insight to protein quality are ash percentage and digestibility.  Normal ash ranges are generally between 5%-12%.  Elevated levels of ash can be an indicator that there was more bone contained in the protein source.  A low digestibility percentage can be another red flag that poor quality proteins were used.  Assuming you feel good about the quality of the protein further knowledge of the source can be important for other reasons such as the presence of disease in certain animals around the world.  For instance, bovine animal sources should be free from scrapie (an illness similar to mad cow disease).   So, if you were feeding a lamb-based product this map would give you an idea of the best sources to avoid diseased animals.

scrapie map

Another sourcing issue important to some people is “Ethical Sourcing”.  This term relates less to the quality of the ingredients.  This term lets you know products are obtained in a responsible and sustainable way, that the workers involved in making them are safe and treated fairly and that environmental and social impacts are taken into consideration during the sourcing process.  This is something you as a consumer looks for if you care about the planet and the conditions of the people working in it.

Now that you have this additional information to consider you might be looking on that dog food bag to find this information.  The FDA is responsible for ensuring that pet foods are properly identified on their packaging, have a net quantity statement, have the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor, and have ingredients listed from heaviest total weight to lightest.  Additionally, states may outline their own labeling requirements based on the recommendations of the AAFCO. These regulations govern the product name, the guaranteed analysis, nutritional adequacy statement, feeding directions, and calorie statements. Obviously, these requirements leave an awful lot of the details out.  If you want any detail about your pet food that you cannot find out on the label or on the manufacturers web site email them and ask.  Generally, they will provide sourcing information and digestibility percentages (if they have done trials).

Is sourcing important to you?

Should my dog be eating senior food?

April 18, 2018

This is a question people ask frequently.  People with small dogs generally think about it later but people who own large breeds may think about it sooner.  But what is the right age?

In some ways age really is just a number.  There is absolutely no cut and dried answer.  I think the better question is, what are a couple nutritional factors that you might find in a senior formula food?

  • Senior formula food will usually be lower in fat content. Most animals see a slow in their metabolism or may have a lower activity level and it gets tougher to keep extra weight off.
  • A premium producer will probably add high quality glucosamine and chondroitin to keep aging joints healthy. If you have a large breed your normal adult food may already have an adequate dosage added in your food.
  • Did you know pet food has salt? A senior formula will have a lower amount of sodium to avoid hypertension.
  • Added Nutraceuticals such as stabilized Vitamin C and Taurine. These are strong anti-oxidants to preserve healthy cells and provide good cardiac health.
  • Added Seaweed and fibers to promote lower tartar and healthy teeth.
  • Balanced Calcium and Phosphorus for healthy bones.
  • Provide a good fiber source for healthy digestion.

So, if you are reading through this list and thinking; ”those things sound like healthy things for just about any dog” … You are not necessarily wrong.  Not all older dogs eat senior food, and some younger dogs eat senior food.  Let’s talk about some examples of when this might happen.

Some examples of when to consider a senior formula for a younger dog include:

  • A dog with kidney problems needing a lower protein to energy ratio
  • A dog with any type of cardiac disease, regardless of age. Some pet owners will be advised to choose a food with a low sodium level.
  • Dogs with pancreatic problems need to eat a food with a low-fat content. Pancreatitis or other pancreatic disorders can make it difficult for a dog to process fat.
  • Some dogs that do not have a high activity level and are seeking a low-fat option for weight control may choose a food with the attributes of a senior formula. The low-fat content coupled with the likely addition of joint supplements are both positive things for a pet carrying extra weight.

A couple of examples of older dogs that might not have their needs best met by a senior formula include:

  • Dogs with cancer or other chronic illness that make it a struggle to keep weight on might prompt looking for a more robust recipe.
  • An active pet needing more energy content.

The easy answer…. ASK AN EXPERT.  You can’t just go by the name or even the label if you want to know to everything. Therefore, it is important to work with a pet nutrition expert to match the nutrition to the needs of your pet.  A pet food expert understands how these ingredients react in the body of an animal and under what circumstances they will benefit an individual pet.

When did you make the transition?

 

Understanding Feline Leukemia

If you’re a cat owner a diagnosis of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) would likely devastate you.

This is a disease that’s second only to trauma in the death of cats.  But the prevalence has decreased over the last 25 years because more reliable testing exists, as well as a vaccine that’s about 85% effective.

A feline leukemia diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence.  To understand why, you first need to understand the illness.

What is FeLV?

FeLV is a disease that suppresses a cat’s immune system putting them at risk for other infections and illnesses.  Those secondary conditions can be fatal.  And feline leukemia is the most common cause of cancer in cats.

This virus only affects cats… dogs, people and other animals are safe.  The disease is passed from one cat to another through bodily fluids like blood, saliva, urine and feces. Grooming and fighting are the most likely means of transmission.

But once the virus leaves your cat’s body, it doesn’t live long.  Only a few hours.  And 70% of cats that come in contact with FeLV resist the infection or fight it off with no symptoms.

Kittens can contract feline leukemia in utero or through an infected mother’s milk.  And younger cats between 1 and 6 years of age are at the greatest risk of getting it.  As cats age, their resistance to the virus seems to improve.

This condition affects all breeds of cats and males are more likely than females to get FeLV.

The troubling thing about the spread of this disease is that a cat can carry and transmit it to another cat without showing signs of infection.

Indoor cats have little risk of acquiring FeLV.  But if you’re bringing a new cat into the house, test kitty first. Multi-cat households are at greater risk especially if the cats share water/food bowls and litter boxes.

What are the signs of feline leukemia?

A cat can test positive for FeLV but have no symptoms at all while they’re fighting it off.  But a cat that is symptomatic may show signs similar to so many other illnesses, like:

Diarrhea

Difficulty breathing

Wobbling

Mouth/gum inflammation

Pale gums

Skin and/or ear infections

Skin abscesses

Whites of eyes are yellow

Enlarged lymph nodes

Bladder or respiratory infections

Weight loss

Loss of appetite

Poor coat condition

Weakness

Lethargy

Fever

Inflammation of the nose, cornea or surrounding eye tissue

If you notice any of these signs, see your vet.  Quick intervention is essential to maintaining your cat’s health.

How is this condition diagnosed?

Your vet will do a full exam along with history and blood work.  Two blood tests are used to diagnose the disease.

The ELISA blood test identifies FeLV proteins in the blood.  This is a sensitive test able to detect the virus early on. A cat that’s positive with this test while it’s trying to clear the virus may test negative in a few months.

Your vet will use the IFA blood test to confirm a positive ELISA test.  This test detects virus in the white blood cells indicating the cat is in the later stages of infection.  Cats that test positive with this test are unlikely to clear the virus and the prognosis is poor.

Your vet may also suggest a bone marrow biopsy to find out if the infection has affected the bone marrow… also a later stage scenario.

What’s the treatment?

If your cat has feline leukemia, their quality of life can be good.  Although no cure exists, regular check ups and preventive care to head off any secondary infections can keep your cat feeling well for many years.

Your vet will probably recommend twice-yearly exams, regular lab tests and parasite control to identify problems early and prevent complications.

When secondary infections arise, early intervention is the best course of action.

Certain symptoms like diarrhea, kidney disease or muscle loss may require a diet change.

Keep your FeLV-positive cat indoors and away from other cats.  If they aren’t already, neuter them too.

What’s the prognosis?

If the disease impacts the bone marrow or results in cancer, the prognosis is not good.

But many cats that test positive in the early stages can fight it off.  Kittens are more likely to have a harder time than an adult cat once the disease takes hold.  But preventing and managing secondary infections can prolong your cat’s life.

Can you prevent feline leukemia?

The best prevention is keeping your cat indoors and away from infected (or potentially infected) cats.

There is a vaccine, but it’s not 100% effective.  It is still wise though to vaccinate your cat if they are at high-risk. Shelter cats, outdoor cats and cats that spend time at a cattery should get the vaccine but only if they test negative for the disease.

Test any kittens over 8 weeks of age before bringing them into a home with other cats.  And if your cat is FeLV-positive, don’t bring another cat into your home even if it’s vaccinated.  Not only will you be exposing that cat to the disease, it also may cause undo stress on the sick cat.

Although this disease is awful, in some instances you can manage the condition in a way that enables your cat to be happy and live a full life.

Does your cat have feline leukemia?  How has the disease progressed?  Share your experience at the top of the page.

 

Why Dogs Eat Poop

Have you ever had a dog that ate poop?  Two of my dogs found poop to be quite a delicacy.  It’s a repulsive problem.

Shockingly, 16% of dogs eat their poop regularly, according to a study done at the University of California at Davis.  And it’s a common reason for re-homing or euthanizing a dog.  That’s sad!

What would cause a dog to develop this disgusting habit?

Well, in puppies coprophagia (poop eating) is instinctual.  In older dogs, it’s a health or behavior issue.

A normal puppy will often eat their poop because they’ve learned this behavior from Mom.  To keep her den clean and to protect her babies from predators, Mom eats the poop to get rid of the scent.

A puppy will follow Mom’s lead and learn to eat poop but they’ll usually outgrow the habit.

Sometimes though, the taste of poop can become normal for a puppy because they taste and smell it on their mom’s mouth.  She may regurgitate food that’s mixed with the poop she’s eaten.

Mom also licks the pups tush to stimulate pooping in the first three weeks, which also leaves fecal matter in her mouth.

The puppy becomes used to the scent of poop on Mom’s breath and the taste of poop when the feces mixes with regurgitated food.

This normalization can make breaking the poop eating habit difficult.

While exploring the world, eating poop is normal for a puppy.  But if they are eating a well-balanced healthy diet, they should stop doing this.

Why wouldn’t a puppy outgrow poop eating and why would an older dog suddenly start?

Sometimes poop eating in puppies continues long after it should stop because they think food should be poop flavored from their days with Mom.

But they may also continue to do this for health or behavioral reasons.  In addition, an older dog may suddenly start scavenging for poop.

If your adult dog is eating poop and they’re showing other symptoms like weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea or behavioral changes, this could be the sign of a health issue.  Talk to your vet.

Here are the main causes of coprophagia.

Poor digestion – Feeding a diet that’s low in digestible nutrients may cause the food to come out the way it went in.  To your dog, that tastes good.  A problem with the digestive system may also cause the food to come out undigested.

Diseases of the intestinal tract, liver and brain, parasites, malabsorption syndromes, diabetes, Cushing’s, thyroid disease –  Your vet can rule these out.

Drugs – Some medications like steroids can cause your dog to eat poop.

Boredom –  If you leave your dog alone for hours, they may play with and eat their stool.

Stress – A dog that’s crated for long periods or a dog that’s re-homed may eat poop because they are under stress.  Any stressful situation can bring this habit on.

Hunger – Is your dog getting enough to eat during the day?  If they aren’t, anything that seems edible will do as far as your dog is concerned.  If you aren’t sure how much to feed, ask your vet.

A dog can also be hungry if they’re harboring a parasite that’s leaching nutrients from their system.  Your dog will look to supplement their diet any way they can.

Attention Seeking – If you’ve freaked when you’ve seen your dog eat poop, they’ve learned they can get you to react when they do.  Even if they’re getting negative attention, they may continue to eat poop to get a rise out of you.

Alternatively, a dog may eat their poop to get rid of the evidence if you’ve yelled at them for having an accident.

Restrictive confinement – Puppy mill dogs crated all day may eat poop.  In addition, these dogs may lack food, which encourages poop eating.

I rescued a greyhound that was a poop eater.  Long hours crated at the track was probably the cause.

Isolation –  Dogs locked in a basement or garage away from their people may eat poop.

Associating poop with food –  This can happen if you feed your dog too close to where they do their business.

Living with a sick or elderly dog –  A healthy dog may eat the sick dog’s poop to protect the pack from predators… instinct.

If you live in a multi-dog home and one of the dog’s eats the poop of another, it could be a sign that the pooper is sick and not sufficiently digesting their food.  To the poop eater, eating their housemates poop is like scoring another meal.

And finally, some dogs just like to eat poop.

How can you stop this behavior?

From my experience I can tell you it’s difficult to end this behavior if a health problem isn’t the cause.

Start by feeding a high–quality digestible food like HusseThis will ensure your dog’s body is using the protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in their food and not pooping them out.

Assess your dog’s level of exercise, playtime and the attention you give them.  Dogs need those things.  If they’re not getting what they need from you, they’ll let you know.  And they may do that by eating their poop.

You can try additives in the food.  These stool-eating deterrents never worked for my dogs.  And studies show they work in only 2% of cases.  Some say meat tenderizer added to the food makes the poop unpleasant as a snack.

The best advice is to be diligent about picking up your dog’s poop as soon as they go.  And always walk your dog on a leash so they can’t eat another dog’s poop.

There haven’t been many studies of coprophagia even though it’s a common habit.  But the little research that’s been done revealed things about a dog’s preferences.

Interestingly, dogs will rarely eat soft poop or diarrhea.  They like their stool snacks firm.  Most dogs that eat poop want it to be fresh… 1 to 2 days old.  Females are most likely to eat poop and intact males are least likely.

And 85% of poop eaters prefer eating another dog’s poop to their own.

Even if your dog doesn’t eat dog poop, most dogs love cat and horse poop.  So prevent access to this delicacy if you own a cat or your dog is around horses.

Although coprophagia is a difficult behavior to change, you can avoid the problem by cleaning up after your dog and controlling them on a leash when you are away from home.  Much better alternatives to giving your pet up, or worse yet, euthanizing them.

Does your dog eat its poop?  How do you handle the problem?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

Cannabis And Dogs

With all the talk about medical marijuana, do you wonder if it might help your aging or infirm dog?

I do.  After all, if marijuana has medicinal benefits for humans, why wouldn’t it be beneficial for our pets?

In my quest to find the answer to that question, I’ve gained clarity.  But I’ve also learned cannabis is a slippery slope.  Here’s why.

Just like in humans, marijuana can relieve many unpleasant medical conditions and symptoms.

But because it’s not legal in many states, and the federal government doesn’t recognize marijuana as legal in any state, little research on dogs (or humans) has been done.

Veterinarians won’t recommend it for fear of losing their licenses.  And you can’t get a medical marijuana card for a dog.

But cannabis, the plant marijuana comes from, can be helpful in relieving some debilitating health conditions.  And if you decide cannabis is right for your dog, ways exist to get it.  We’ll discuss those in a minute.

How can cannabis help your dog?

Marijuana can relieve symptoms of cancer, seizures, stress, anxiety, arthritis, back pain, nausea and other gastrointestinal issues.

There is much anecdotal evidence of improved quality of life in once-suffering pets.  But no scientific research to back it up.

And as long as it’s considered a controlled substance by the federal government, research on cannabis will remain stalled.

How does cannabis work?

Here’s a little lesson in marijuana, one byproduct of the cannabis plant.  Cannabis contains over 400 known natural compounds and at least 60 plant-based cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids are like messengers that travel to receptor sites in the endocannabinoid system, which all vertebrates have.  This bodily system regulates many physiological and cognitive processes including appetite, pain sensation, and mood and is the system of the body most affected by cannabis.

In marijuana, the two cannabinoids produced in greatest abundance are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Of all the cannabinoids found in cannabis, only THC will make you high. CBD provides the medicinal component and THC the psychoactive component.  Any cannabis product you would give your dog would contain a low dose of THC, not enough to get them high.

In fact, many products for dogs get their CBD from industrial hemp, a product with many purposes.  Hemp, like marijuana, comes from the cannabis plant but does not have psychoactive properties.

Cannabis grown for industrial hemp has a very low THC content, only around .3%.  The THC content of cannabis grown for marijuana can be 6 to 7%, sometimes up to 20%.

The two cannabinoids used together are what make medical marijuana most effective.  So a small amount of THC is necessary.

The receptors the cannabinoids bind to determine the effects of cannabis.   There are two main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.  In dogs, CB1 exists in the brain, salivary glands, and hair follicles.

CB2 is in the skin, immune system, nervous system, and some organs.  As in humans, it’s important to give your dog the right cannabinoids to achieve the desired effect.

And correct dosing is critical!  Your dog will not get high if the dose is correct.

Although death from marijuana in dogs is rare if it’s used correctly, an overdose can be life threatening.

The biggest risk of an overdose in dogs is them getting into your stash.  Most dog deaths related to marijuana overdose occurred when the dog ate edibles infused with pot that contained large amounts of chocolate, raisins or coffee.  All toxic for dogs.

Consuming large amounts of marijuana, however, can be fatal.  The signs of an overdose are lethargy, dilated pupils, balance problems, drooling, muscle twitching, vomiting, involuntary urination and even unconsciousness.  Get to the vet if you suspect your dog got into your pot.

How much cannabis should I give my dog and how do I get it?

Determining the correct dose is one of the greatest challenges because there is no research to tell us the right dose.

Weight doesn’t determine dosage.  The efficiency of the endocannabinoid system affects dosage.  Your vet must observe your dog to assess that.

If you decide to give your dog medical marijuana, you must find a vet who has experience using it for treatment.  Many holistic vets do.  They can suggest reputable manufacturers and correct dosing.  But they will not dispense it.  And they are not able to give you a medical marijuana card for your pet.

Dogs are usually given a topical oil or an edible—a food item made with marijuana or infused with cannabis oil—which you can buy at a dispensary.

If you live in a state where marijuana is legal you can get it easily.  If you live in a state where only medical marijuana is legal and you have a medical marijuana card, you can go to a reliable dispensary and find products made for dogs.

Only give your dog a product formulated for them.

Dogs are more sensitive to cannabinoids than humans.  They need a much smaller dose.  There is a concern in the veterinary community people will use their own experience with medical marijuana as a guide and will give their pets too much.

If you live in a state where medical marijuana is not legal, you may still be able to buy hemp products.  These products still offer the benefits of CBD.

As with any medication or supplement, I can’t stress enough the need to seek the advice of a veterinarian before you give your dog cannabis.

Marijuana instead of medicine?

Marijuana should not replace any medicine your vet recommends.  You can use it in conjunction with traditional treatments, or when other treatments have failed.

It is not a cure-all.  But marijuana does not seem to have the life-threatening side effects of many traditional medicines.  It doesn’t cause organ damage, stomach distress or sedation.

When considering medical marijuana for your dog, be realistic about its capabilities.  But if it can improve your dog’s quality of life, marijuana may be worth a try.

Do you use marijuana to treat a medical condition in your dog?  Share your experience at the top of the page.