What If Your Pet Eats Cannabis?
Posted by Glenn Beierle on 08/22/2018 in Pets
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
We all want what’s best for our animal friends. After all, they provide us with love and companionship, and in return, we ensure their safety and prevent any harm from befalling them. Although medical marijuana has many benefits for us, it’s not the same for our pups, kittens and other pets. Cannabis-infused pet products do exist, but they’re designed with your animal’s biology in mind. If your pet eats actual cannabis, it could still be harmful to them.
You would never feed your dog chocolate, and you know grapes are toxic to our four-legged friends. The same goes for marijuana. As the use of medical and recreational cannabis grows in states that have legalized using the plant, we may see more and more incidents of dogs and cats consuming marijuana. In fact, vets in Colorado and Washington have seen a massive influx of pets that have been exposed to the effects of the plant.
Unfortunately, accidents happen. And if your pet gets into your cannabis stash, you should be forewarned about what could happen — and what you should do.
Watch Your Pet for Side Effects of Cannabis Ingestion
The first thing you should be aware of is that cannabis can be moderately to severely poisonous to animals — especially if it contains THC. Their bodies cannot handle this cannabinoid the same way ours can. Marijuana creates extreme behavioral and physical responses in our four-legged friends.
While weed does make pets high, it can also produce dangerous reactions similar to if they had ingested poison. Animals usually consume pot in one of three ways:
- Eating your cannabis buds
- Ingesting your infused edibles
- Inhaling the smoke or vapor when you are dosing
Eating marijuana has the most potential to cause harmful side effects in your pet. If you think your dog may have gotten into your cannabis products, observe their behavior. Some of the symptoms they may exhibit include:
- Dilated pupils
- Agitation or paranoia displayed through panting and pacing
- Disorientation and loss of balance resembling a “drunk walk”
- Lethargy or depression
- Breathing problems
- Low blood pressure or heart rate
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Respiratory issues
The Smaller the Pet, the More Potential for Harm
A large quantity of pot can be lethal to pets of all sizes. But depending on how big or small your animal is, you may have more cause for concern. Three grams of marijuana with THC per two pounds of your pet’s weight is a potentially fatal dose. This means a 75-pound Labrador retriever will have a different reaction to marijuana than a five-pound chihuahua. However, low doses can also be harmful no matter the size and can cause your pet to experience seizures or even a coma.
What to Do If Your Pet Has Chowed Down on Some Cannabis
If you know your animal has eaten some of you cannabis products, it’s advisable to go to the vet immediately. The fact that you have a larger pet doesn’t mean they don’t need emergency assistance — however, it may be less urgent. Smaller animals that are 10 pounds or less should go straight to the veterinarian.
If you’re not sure whether they’ve eaten your pot, just wait — you will probably notice the initial signs fairly quickly. They may be subtle at first, such as a wobbly walk or loss of balance. If it reaches the point where they become incontinent or experience difficulties breathing, get to the vet ASAP. Static ataxia is the most common sign your pet has overdosed, which causes a lack of muscle coordination that can last for hours or even a full day. Dogs are more likely to experience this, as they have a high cluster of cannabinoid receptors in their hindbrain.
When you take your pet to the veterinarian, be honest about the cause. They are more concerned about the state of your animal than how you obtained your cannabis. Depending on the severity of their overdose, your pet could require a combination of different treatments, including:
- Induced vomiting
- Administering IV fluids
- Extended hospitalization for severe cases
In most cases, pets don’t ingest enough cannabis for it to be fatal. However, a hefty veterinary bill is sure to encourage you to take more precautions about keeping your marijuana out of your animals’ reach.
How to Avoid a Pet-Involved Marijuana Overdose
There’s a well-known saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you can keep your pet from getting ahold of your cannabis and marijuana-infused products in the first place, this will save you a whole lot of grief — and money — in the long run. First off, be aware of your animal and what they’re likely to get into.
They may not be as attracted to raw cannabis buds. However, edibles made with chocolate and butter are some of the top culprits responsible for marijuana poisoning in pets. Be sure that you store your marijuana brownies, cannabutter and chocolate bars away safely. In fact, you should always keep your marijuana products in a safe place — even when you’re in the house.
Some safe options you may want to consider for keeping your cannabis out of reach include:
- Child-safe cannabis storage cases
- High shelves
- Secure cabinets
- Durable cases with locks
- A designated room that’s closed off to your pet
You may also want to avoid smoking around your animals. Although the amount of THC they’ll inhale is minimal, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Learn More About Cannabis Products for Pets
Although high amounts of regular marijuana can be poisonous to pets, our furry friends have endocannabinoid systems just like we do. So, there is a high potential that marijuana products could have medical benefits for our animals, as well. The most important things to remember are only to give small doses of these products to your pets and to watch how they react afterward. Products that are rich in CBD may also be more beneficial than those that contain THC, as THC has been shown to cause toxicity.
If you’re interested in marijuana-infused products for pets, contact a dispensary near you to see if they carry items for your four-legged friends.