A Joint Effort: Keeping Your Pets Safe From Cannabis

by | Oct 12, 2023 | Cannabis Safety

cannabis and dogs

If you use smokable cannabis, one of the things you may not think of is how that might impact your pet. Whether you have a dog or cat or even a bird living with you, where you smoke can affect those around you. Especially furry friends who will do anything to sit beside you if you hang out on the couch.

The concept of your pet “getting a little high” might seem funny. However, cannabis intoxication for pets can be life-threatening. Pets will have adverse effects from ingested cannabis, but inhaling it can cause actual harm to dogs and cats or other pets, according to experts in veterinary medicine.

Not many people know that pets have susceptible respiratory systems, and some pets have many more cannabinoid receptors than humans. What happens when your pet is exposed to tetrahydrocannabinol THC products?

How Do Pets Get Exposed to Cannabis?

One of the great things about dogs is that you can place objects on a counter, out of reach, and know that your dog will not be able to access your cannabis products. When it comes to cats and birds, however, no open surface is safe.

Pet owners should know that there are two ways that accidental marijuana ingestion can occur for pets.

Accidental Cannabis Consumption

Pet owners who use medical cannabis daily may leave cannabis-infused products within reach of pets. That means your cannabis flower, grinder, pre-rolls, or edibles. Often, pets are most susceptible to consuming edible cannabis, which can also include infused foods you have purchased or made at home, such as cookies, cannabutter, and more.

While pets typically have an acute sense of smell, the scent of THC will not deter them from consuming a cannabis edible. If it smells or tastes appealing to them, chances are they are going to eat it. Unknowingly exposing themselves to the effects of marijuana toxicity.

Secondhand Weed Smoke and Vapors

When you are relaxing at home, you may not think about secondhand smoke when you light up a pre-roll or pack your pipe. You know how dogs and cats are; if you are chilling out on the couch, they want to be sitting or lying close to you.

That is why you should consume cannabis in a separate room, away from your pets. If you are using cannabis vape or smokable flower, and you share your home with other people and pets, the garage or outside on a balcony or patio may be the best place. Smoking in a well-ventilated room does not mean that your pets (or other people) will not be exposed to secondhand weed smoke and suffer unwanted side effects.

How Dogs Experience Cannabis Intoxication

Cannabis products are available in different levels of THC. The higher the potency, the more at-risk your pet is of experiencing a potentially life-threatening level of marijuana intoxication. Experts in veterinary medicine consider any exposure to cannabis as a poisoning event that requires emergency care.

Weed does the exact opposite for dogs as it does for humans. They can experience tremors and severe paralyzing levels of anxiety and fear caused by THC. The terrified and confused emotional duress can last for days after a dog has experienced cannabis intoxication.

cannabis and cats

Cats Experience Marijuana Toxicity, Too

Cannabis is very toxic to cats as well. After consuming cannabis products, a cat may start vomiting and experience lower body temperature. They can appear drowsy or, in some cases, agitated, with a high-energy and frantic mood.

Like dogs, cats can display a variety of signs, including excessive drooling, disorientation, and urinary drips or incontinence. Cats may also become highly vocal, meowing in fear as they are severely upset by the symptoms they experience, and have a wild-eyed appearance.

Cannabis Can Also Be Deadly to Birds

People who care for domesticated birds should know that any type of smoke or vapor can cause serious health problems and possibly life-threatening situations. Every bird pet owner should keep cannabis products safely stored to prevent accidental poisoning.

Birds may show a variety of symptoms after ingesting or being exposed to cannabis smoke or vapor:

  • Eyes constricted (pupils smaller than normal).
  • Compromised balance (wobbly).
  • Lethargy or non-responsiveness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Shivering (lowered body temperature).
  • Strange vocalizations (panicked or garbled sounds).

Even a small amount of cannabis can be deadly to birds, whether ingested or inhaled. Small birds are more susceptible to fatalities after exposure. Concentrated cannabis products, like edibles or wax, can cause death in a relatively short period of time.

dogs and cats weed

What Are the Clinical Signs of THC Toxicity in Pets?

While cannabis may make you feel relaxed, sedated, or energetic and happy, it is not a pleasant experience for pets like dogs and cats. It can be a terrifying experience for them, and a pet’s exposure to cannabis often results in a trip to the emergency clinic.

Effects of cannabis poisoning in dogs and cats may begin to appear thirty (30) to sixty (60) minutes after ingestion, and symptoms may include:

  • Widely open and glassy eyes.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Vomiting and retching.
  • Urinary incontinence.
  • Tremors and Seizures.
  • Coma.
  • Ataxia (staggering or drunken appearing movement).
  • Lethargy.

In about 25% of the cases of accidental cannabis intoxication for pets, the adverse effects can also include a coma. That is because cannabis can significantly elevate the heart rate of dogs and cats or cause a dangerous dip in blood pressure and body temperature. Cannabis also suppresses the central nervous system (CNS) functioning of dogs and cats.

The toxic effects of cannabis can last up to 96 hours, but the average time for recovery is 18-24 hours. Some types of THC toxicity are more harmful, which is something dog or cat owners should know. For example, semi-synthetic and synthetic cannabis products (Delta-THC or K2 Spice), hashish, or concentrates like budder, badder, or wax can be lethal.

dog cannabis poisoning

What Should You Do If Your Pet Has THC Poisoning

The worst assumption you can make is that your dog or cat will sober up from eating edibles or cannabis plant material as you do. You should treat every case of accidental ingestion as a marijuana poisoning that requires immediate medical care.

Pets need medical supportive care urgently if they have swallowed THC or been exposed to a high volume of secondhand smoke and are showing symptoms of distress. Take your pet to an emergency clinic as soon as possible. Or call the animal poison control hotline for guidance.

If you are not able to visit a veterinary clinic, you may try using activated charcoal for first aid. It is available in a dry powder, liquid, or combined slurry. You can purchase products formulated for poisoning on Amazon. Veterinarians do not recommend charcoal pills or capsules, as they are not as effective in the gastrointestinal tract.

Activated charcoal can be used anytime your dog or cat may have ingested something poisonous. It is a good idea to have a canister of powder at home or when you travel in case of emergencies. The charcoal helps absorb THC and flush cannabis out of your dog or cat. Side effects from using activated charcoal include lethargy, vomiting, and black stools for a few days after treatment.

What Will a Veterinarian Do to Help Your Pet?

Suppose you are able to take your dog or cat to a clinic for a medical emergency. In that case, veterinary medical professionals will use aggressive treatment to help remove THC from your pet. Cannabis toxicity is treated the same way as any other type of poisoning that can be life-threatening for your pet.

The first thing a veterinarian will do is run diagnostic tests to determine how much THC has been ingested by your pet. Then, intravenous fluids are often used to rehydrate and help flush cannabinoids out. The veterinarian may also apply activated charcoal to help remove THC from the digestive tract, as it acts like a sponge that can help remove cannabinoids.

It may take days for your pet to recover, in which case, they may be staying under the supervision of your veterinary medical team until enough THC has passed through your pet’s system that they no longer require critical care.

Remember that severe cases of cannabis poisoning

Safely Store All Cannabis Products Away From Pets

In addition to almost losing your pet, that could be one heck of an expensive veterinary bill. Reduce your risks by consuming cannabis in well-ventilated areas (ideally, outside and away from your pet).

Also, make sure all cannabis products are safely stored so that your pets cannot access them. That means keeping your medical cannabis in a tight container, sealed, and out of reach. And if you own a cat, remember, no surface is safe. Those little guys can get anywhere, so store your cannabis products in a cupboard or sealed box where your feline friend can’t break in.


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