From relaxation to relief from chronic pain and many other conditions, marijuana has a host of benefits for humans. But for pets, cannabis is a poison – a toxin that can cause illness and even death. Although it’s tempting to think that your pet enjoys getting high as much as you do, veterinarians warn that exposure to cannabis can be harmful to dogs, cats, horses, and other pets.
Here’s what to know about the risk – and how to protect the pets you love.
How Does Cannabis Affect Animals?
Humans and other mammals all have an endocannabinoid system – a large network of cell receptors responding to cannabinoid chemicals naturally produced by the body, and to similar compounds in cannabis.
But even though they have many systems in common, animals and humans don’t always respond in the same way to certain substances. For example, humans can freely take ibuprofen for pain, use sweeteners like Xylitol, or enjoy foods like raisins, chocolate, and grapes, but all those things can be severely toxic to animals.
The same is true of compounds in cannabis. THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive compound responsible for the famous “high” sought by recreational users everywhere. But THC is toxic to the animals we share our homes with.
When pets eat or inhale cannabis products that contain THC, they can appear high. But the symptoms that follow are anything but fun for a four-legged friend.
What Happens When Pets Consume Cannabis?
Cannabis use is going up, so pets have more opportunities to encounter medicinal and recreational cannabis products with high THC content. They might grab an edible off a countertop, knock a jar of flower off a shelf, or nab a cannabis pre-roll lost under the couch. And some people also find it amusing to blow cannabis smoke into an animal’s face or ears or offer it a nibble of a cannabis-infused cookie.
Symptoms of cannabis poisoning include lethargy, impaired coordination, dilated pupils, or whining. Some animals become aggressive or frightened of motion and sound. Exposure to THC can cause seizures, coma, or even death in some cases.
Edibles pose the greatest risk for pets, since they can also contain other toxic ingredients like chocolate or artificial sweeteners.
But inhaling cannabis smoke in a poorly ventilated area can be enough to cause symptoms too. Whatever the circumstances, any animal showing symptoms of cannabis toxicity needs quick intervention.
What About CBD?
CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-intoxicating cannabis compound with many benefits for animals
as well as for people. It’s generally safe for pets, but it’s important to buy CBD products designed just for them. CBD products for people can contain some THC and other ingredients that might be harmful to pets.
How to Help Pets Recover
There isn’t an antidote for cannabis poisoning, so veterinarians typically provide supportive care
while a pet recovers from its encounter with the weed. That can include IV fluids or medications for seizures, anxiety, or nausea. Activated charcoal can help bind cannabis compounds in the stomach and move them quickly out of the body. In severe cases, an animal might need to be hospitalized.
Affected animals should be kept quiet in a safe and comfortable place until symptoms pass, which can take hours, days or even weeks.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
To keep pets safe:
- Follow the same precautions you’d use for children.
- Keep cannabis products in sealed containers where pets can’t reach them and be vigilant for snack thieves when making or eating cannabis edibles. If you’re smoking cannabis, keep pets out of the room or make sure the space is well ventilated.
- Don’t blow smoke into an animal’s face or ears.
And if a pet does encounter cannabis, be on the lookout for symptoms that call for a trip to the vet.
Get a Medical Marijuana Card Online
It’s easy to get your medical marijuana document with the online Telehealth service HelloMD. Register, pay, and receive an online medical consultation with a licensed practitioner and purchase medical cannabis today. You don’t pay unless you’re approved!