Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
If you own a pet, you need to know that cannabis is toxic for animals. This article tells you what you need to know to keep your dog and/or cat safe when there is cannabis in the house.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, a combined 80 million American households own at least one dog or cat. If you dig deeper into the raw numbers, that’s an incredible 135 million pet dogs and cats within the nation’s borders. Simply put, Americans adore their dogs and cats.
Americans also love their legal cannabis. As more states legalize some form of legal cannabis, whether it be medical or recreational programs, the overall public approval of cannabis legality is nearly universal. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 91 percent of American adults approve of some type of cannabis legality.
As we’ve seen more states legalize both medically and recreationally, we’ve seen the number of cannabis-related calls to services like the Pet Poison Helpline spike as well. In fact, according to the PPH themselves, we’ve seen a massive 448 percent increase in cases over the past few years.
This article is going to break down whether or not cannabis plants are toxic for our canine and feline friends, how and why it impacts them the way it does, and what you can do to keep your pets from getting into your stash.
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Why is Cannabis Bad for Dogs and Cats?
Cannabis is toxic to dogs in large amounts. It’s even worse if that cannabis happens to be high in THC.
So why exactly is THC so bad for dogs and cats? What does it do to them? And why is it considered toxic? Well, the answer lies in the way animals’ brains work. Your pet’s brain contains more cannabinoid receptors, known scientifically as CB1 and CB2, which bind to the THC molecules in cannabis. That binding produces the psychoactive effects of cannabis. More cell receptors means a more intense high, even if a smaller amount of cannabis overall is ingested. That means your pup or kitty will get “higher” than humans on less product. Dogs and cats also have fewer CB2 receptors than humans, which means they get a more intense high but less of the healing properties that cannabis can provide.
Put simply, if your dog or cat gets into your supply, they’re going to have a very intense and possibly deadly trip to deal with.
Does All Cannabis Affect Dogs and Cats the Same?
Just like humans, how much of the cannabis or what type of product they ingest matters. Edibles and other concentrates, for example, will likely impact your pet more than flower due to the higher THC concentration.
Dogs and cats are also very sensitive to many commonly used ingredients of cannabis edibles. The most widely known substance has to be chocolate, but other incredibly toxic substances for dogs like the artificial sweetener Xylitol are often used in cannabis edibles. If your pup or kitten gets into your stash of pot brownies, it’s very important to tell the vet the full story. That dog is going to need treatment for not just chocolate but for the cannabis in the brownie as well.
How to Tell if a Pet has Eaten Cannabis
Signs of toxicity can be seen anywhere from 5 minutes to 12 hours after the animal is exposed to marijuana. The signs can potentially last 30 minutes to several days depending on the dose ingested. For those wondering what a dog or cat being affected by cannabis looks like, here’s a comprehensive list of symptoms your pet could experience:
- Dilated pupils
- Low blood pressure
- Low body temperature
- Glassy eyes
If you notice any of these symptoms, call your vet immediately. Remember to be honest with the vet about what has happened so they can help your pet.
CBD for Animals
While it’s vital that you lock up your cannabis and keep it out of reach from your pup or kitties, it’s unfair to say that ALL cannabis is bad for your furry friends. Unlike THC, CBD has actually been shown to help dogs and cats, especially older ones, manage painful conditions like arthritis and hip/elbow dysplasia. CBD won’t get your pet high unlike THC and it comes in a variety of options like gummies, chewable treats, and oil that can be mixed into food and water and are specifically made for pets.
If your pet is going to consume any type of cannabis product, make sure it’s a quality, independent lab-tested CBD product designed for animals! Otherwise, lock up your cannabis and keep your pet away from it. Losing your furry friends to something like a cannabis overdose is avoidable as long as you take the proper precautions!
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