Dogs and Chocolate Marijuana Edibles: A Toxic Combination

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A recent report in The New York Times highlights a dangerous and increasingly common health threat to our pets (especially dogs) – eating recreational or medical marijuana…and chocolate desserts that contain marijuana. Most pet owners know that they should keep chocolate, a known toxin, away from their animals. But if that chocolate brownie also happens to contain marijuana, your dog could be doubly at risk.

According to the article, consuming marijuana can cause symptoms like lethargy, unsteady gait, urinary incontinence, excessive salivation, and sensitivity to noise, light, and movements. But the ingestion of marijuana alone is rarely fatal. Your vet will induce vomiting and provide extra hydration during recovery. New York City’s Animal Medical Center reports that it treats several cases of pet marijuana poisoning every week.

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Consuming marijuana alone can be harmful enough, but if your dog consumes a chocolate marijuana edible like brownies, the effects could be life-threatening. The director of the ASPCA’s poison control center reports that any canine deaths from marijuana ingestion pretty much always involve the dog consuming chocolate as well.

The toxic component of chocolate, a compound called theobromine (combined with the chocolate’s caffeine) can cause vomiting, diarrhea, thirst, restlessness, increased heart rate, and excessive urination. In serious cases, dogs can experience tremors, seizures, and heart failure. Older dogs with underlying heart conditions can die. As with marijuana poisoning, your vet will induce vomiting and give extra fluids.

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It’s important to keep all forms of marijuana and chocolate out of your curious dog’s reach. When the two are combined into one edible, be especially careful to make sure your dog cannot access this tempting but potentially deadly food.

The 15 Most Dangerous Pet Toxins

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The experts in veterinary toxicology at the Animal Poison Control Center recently put out a very useful list of the top 15 drugs, household items, and plants that are dangerous to pets. Here’s a quick rundown. Be sure to check out their website for the complete story, lots of valuable information about pet poisons, and to learn more about the 24/7 Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661.

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  1. Sago Palm. An ornamental plant that is highly toxic and can cause liver failure in pets. Unsafe as an indoor or outdoor plant.

2. 5-Fluorouracil. A topical chemotherapy treatment which can be deadly to pets.

3. Baclofen. A human muscle relaxant that can cause seizures, coma, and death in pets.

4. Isoniazid. A treatment for tuberculosis, this drug can cause severe toxic reactions in pets.

5. Calcipotriene/Calcipotriol. A synthetic form of Vitamin D. Even a tiny amount can be toxic to pets.

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6. Lilies. Lilies are especially toxic to cats…even the pollen. Ingesting lilies causes acute kidney failure in cats.

7. Ethylene Glycol. This is the sweet-tasting but toxic ingredient in antifreeze that causes kidney failure and central nervous system distress in pets.

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8. Metaldehyde. An ingredient in snail and slug bait. Causes seizures, tremors, and hypothermia in pets.

9. Baking Xylitol. This type of sugar substitute is especially toxic to dogs, even more so than the xylitol in gum or candy, because it is 100% xylitol.

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10. Golden Malrin. A fly bait that can cause the same symptoms as organophosphates (see #11).

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11. Organophosphates. A type of insecticide that causes severe central nervous system, heart, and digestive reactions in pets.

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12. Rodenticides made with Vitamin D or Bromethalin. Two very dangerous types of rodent killer that are designed to be attractive to animals. Ones made with Vitamin D cause kidney failure and those with bromethalin cause brain swelling.

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13. Japanese Yew. All parts of this ornamental plant are toxic to pets. In fact, horses can die if they graze on the trimmings.

14. Caffeine Pills. This includes diet and fitness supplements that contain caffeine. Pets are extremely sensitive to the effects of caffeine.

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15. Grapes and Raisins. Can cause severe kidney failure in pets, even just a small amount.

 

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance in Dogs

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When our dogs are experiencing problems like itchy skin or an upset stomach, many owners will begin to suspect that their pet has a food allergy. Veterinary experts say that food allergies in dogs are not as common as people think, and that a food intolerance may be the cause of your dog’s issues. What’s the difference between an allergy and an intolerance? Read on.

While an allergy is caused by an immune system reaction, an intolerance is a sensitivity.  According to the nutritionists at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, out of all the dogs they see for suspected food allergies, only around 10% of them have an actual food allergy. What about the other 90%?

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Some of the dogs with skin issues are having allergic reactions to airborne particles in the environment like pollen, dust, and mold. For dogs with digestive problems, a food intolerance is more likely to be the culprit than a food allergy. Food intolerance can be more subtle than a sensitivity to a particular ingredient. For some dogs, it could be the amount of fat or fiber in a dog food, or even how it was cooked.

What are the most common food ingredients to cause intolerance in dogs? According to the experts at PetMD, owners should be aware of lactose, gluten, artificial additives like coloring, and table scraps containing things like spices.

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Of course, all dogs are different, so you should talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s particular food sensitivities. The standard way of identifying an intolerance or allergy is to exclude likely causes one at a time from your dog’s diet and see if the symptoms improve. Once the food is identified, avoid feeding your dog anything containing the offending ingredient, and be especially careful about people giving your dog “treats.”

 

New Report Highlights Parallels between Human and Pet Health Care Spending

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The National Bureau of Economic Research recently released a Working Paper that discusses key similarities between our own health care and the care that we provide for our dogs, cats, and other pets. The authors point to 4 main areas where U.S. economic data indicates that our human and pet health spending patterns converge. Here’s a brief rundown:

Rapid growth in human and pet health care spending over the last two decades.

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Pet care has experienced greater growth than all other areas of household spending categories. Next is human health care, followed by housing, and lastly, entertainment. Data shows strong growth in pet care spending beginning around 2005-2006 that continues at a high rate today.

A strong correlation between income and pet & human health spending.

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Not surprisingly, households in the highest income category ($70,000 annually and above) spend more on human and pet health care (as well as housing and entertainment) than households in lower income categories. Pet spending is 114% more in the highest income households than in the lowest.

Rapid growth in the employment of human and pet health care providers.

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The supply of human health care providers and pet health care professionals has grown dramatically over the past couple of decades. While the supply of human physicians has increased 40% between 1996 and 2013, the supply of veterinarians has doubled.

High spending for end-of-life care for both humans and pets.

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A comparison of end-of-life care for pets and humans (using canine cancer patients and human cancer patients on Medicare) shows that there is a distinct end-of-life spending spike (particularly in the last month of life) for both. Human spending begins to increase 3-4 months prior to death while pet spending generally increases just one month before.