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Pets Keep Getting High Off of Their Humans’ Supply

Accidental cannabis consumption in pets has increased significantly in recent years, and it’s not just dogs and cats getting stoned. A new study reveals that even cockatoos are flying high in a whole different way

If you’ve ever gotten really high and then became certain that your dog must be high, too, you may not be wrong. Or at least, you wouldn’t be the first. In a new study examining the symptoms and risks of accidental cannabis consumption across different species, researchers found a pattern of increased vet visits among pets who have gotten high as hell since 2018. In addition to the usual edible-thief suspects like dogs and cats, the research showed that cockatoos and other unexpected animals are getting in on the action as well.

“The results were expected for the most part,” Jibran Khokhar, lead author of the study and assistant professor at Ontario Veterinary College, tells me. “But it was a surprise to see the cases in animals such as iguanas, ferrets, cockatoos and horses.”

Accidental cannabis consumption has been a growing concern among veterinarians in recent years. In 2019 alone, the Animal Poison Control Center reported a 765 percent increase in calls about pets consuming cannabis compared to 2018. To gather more information, Khokhar and his colleagues surveyed 251 veterinarians in the U.S. and Canada about cases of weed consumption in house pets that they treated. Vets in both countries saw a significant increase in cases after 2018, following legalization nationally in Canada as well as in certain U.S. states. 

Ingesting edibles was by far the most common 4/20 accident, followed by eating dried cannabis and joint butts. Other incidents included pets consuming concentrates, fresh plants, weed butter and oil. Though in most cases, veterinarians reported that pet owners weren’t sure the exact form of consumption. Perhaps more shocking — some pets got high by eating contaminated human feces.

Previous research has documented cannabis consumption in iguanas, ferrets and horses, but Khokhar’s work is the first to record a case with a cockatoo. Unfortunately, the survey questions didn’t “capture the unique symptoms associated with specific species,” Khokhar adds, so there’s no way to know exactly what a stoned cockatoo acts like. Instead, they tracked broader symptoms based on what we know dogs already tend to experience, and found a lot of overlap in symptoms of “cannabis toxicosis” among species — the most common being urinary incontinence, a slower than normal heart rate, lack of coordination and general disorientation. 

Though many of these symptoms just sound like your brother on a Thursday night, the study authors note that dogs produce additional THC metabolites that humans don’t, which could help explain why dogs appear to get extra stoned compared to their owners. And although I’d personally rather drive my high dog to McDonald’s than the hospital, Khokhar recommends erring on the side of caution.

“While most of the cases required only monitoring, some were more serious, and even fatal,” Khokhar warns. The survey questions didn’t analyze individual pet records in detail, so it’s unclear if the 16 reported deaths were a result of other ingredients like chocolate or xylitol that are frequently found in edibles and are also toxic to dogs. “Because of the variety of factors like other ingredients in edibles and the size of the pet, it would be impossible to know what exposure becomes more dire, so it’s best to seek veterinary care,” Khokhar concludes. 

Or better yet, avoid the stress of a high dog, cat, bird, horse or iguana altogether by safely storing your edibles and other weed products out of their reach. Your cockatoo might not thank you, but at least they’ll be able to fly in a straight line.