In this column, I’ve talked a lot about using cannabis or CBD for human health and wellness, but what about our four-legged companions?

Believe it our not, the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, found throughout our bodies is not exclusive to human beings. This receptor system that interacts with chemical compounds in plants like cannabis — known as phytocannabinoids — is also found in other mammals and in birds, reptiles, and fish.

To be clear, THC — the chemical compound in cannabis that is psychotropic — can be toxic to your pets. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the most common form of improper exposure to THC is through edibles.

Edible food and drink products infused with THC toxic ingredients often include ingredients that are known to be harmful to pets such as chocolate, raisins, or xylitol. Consuming the cannabis plant material can cause health complications such as nausea, vomiting and aspiration.

Other signs that your pet may have consumed THC can include lethargy or stumbling, whining, agitation, tremors and seizures. Keeping your pet comfortable and calm is key as you bring them to your vet. A vet may administer activated charcoal to minimize toxicity.

In extreme cases, a pet may lapse into a coma, but again, it depends on many variables, including amount consumed, the form consumed, any additional ingredients and the size of your pet. The goal isn’t to keep your pet from getting high but to remove as much of the THC-laden product from its system as quickly as possible.

While THC is not recommended for pets, CBD products on the market may be specifically formulated for dogs, cats, birds, horses and more. Similar to CBD for humans, CBD products for pets may be effective for hip and joint pain relief, anxiety relief, seizure reduction, easing pain from glaucoma, relaxation, even cancer support.

CBD pet products may be combined with turmeric, glucosamine, and chondroitin for hip and joint pain or ginger and oregano for relaxation. They often come as oils or capsules taken orally, topical creams to apply to aching muscles and joints, and edible treats such as chews and biscuits. More recently, CBD oral sprays have been developed to make it easier to administer.

Do not give your pet a human dose of CBD. Do a search online for free CBD dosage calculators, particularly ones associated with homeopathic or naturopathic veterinarians, to calculate a proper dose. You need to know the per-drop or per-capsule concentration and the animal’s weight to figure out how much to give.

Speak with your vet first, and if they are not knowledgeable or receptive to CBD use, seek out a holistic vet who is open to CBD.

Safely storing your cannabis products is key whether you have children, pets or anyone who isn’t fully aware of what they are consuming. Keep THC under lock and key. Keep CBD products out of reach as you would any plant medicine or vitamin supplement.

Aliza Sherman lives in Anchorage, Alaska and has been involved in the cannabis industry since early 2016. She is the co-founder of Ellementa, an international network for women interested in cannabis for wellness. She is the author of a new book, “The Essential Guide to Cannabis and CBD: Optimizing Your Health With Nature’s Medicine” (Ten Speed Press).

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