Pot and Pets: Awareness of the Risks

A cat sitting in a window

Marijuana, cannabis, pot, weed… whatever you want to call it, if you live in California, it’s legal. With recreational and medical marijuana use becoming more and more mainstream, there are an increasing number of pets who are being accidentally or intentionally exposed to the stuff. 

Part of responsible marijuana use is knowing what risks it may have for you and your family. East Sacramento Veterinary Center would like all of our readers to understand pot and pets and how they mix.

When Pot and Pets Mix

When pot and pets mingle, the results aren’t always for the best. Whether Fido finds your edible stash, decides to eat a discarded roach on the ground outside, or you give him something to help with his arthritis (please always call us before giving medicine or supplements to your pet!) there can be some serious consequences.

Pets are very sensitive to THC, the psychoactive component in the Cannabis plant. Exposure in dogs is fairly common, particularly as marijuana has become more and  more mainstream. Toxicity in cats is possible, however less common as our feline friends tend to be a little more discerning.

While ingestion or smoke exposure is not generally thought to be deadly, marijuana exposure in pets can get pretty ugly.

  • Depending on the size and amount of THC exposure, pets who are experiencing marijuana toxicity may have:
    Drunken or wobbly movement
  • Dilated pupils
  • Urine dribbling
  • Low body temperature
  • Dazed or lethargic mentation
  • Increased anxiety
  • Changed in heart rate
  • Vocalizations
  • Heavy sedation to the point of being comatose
  • Seizure

Obviously in the case of edibles, toxicity can also occur in conjunction with adverse effects to whatever the marijuana is in. Chocolate such as in brownies or artificial sweeteners like Xylitol carry their own risks. 

When Pets Partake

If your pet has ingested or otherwise been exposed to marijuana, it is important to act quickly. 

In the case of ingestion, many symptoms can be avoided by inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal to block the absorption of the THC into the bloodstream. Signs of toxicity can begin anywhere from five minute to 24 hours after exposure.

Once symptoms begin, supportive care is a must. Most pets require intravenous fluid therapy, body temperature support, and heart rate and seizure monitoring. Pets may need help ambulating and may also need medication to stop vomiting. Thankfully, with the tender loving care from our staff, most marijuana toxicity patients are back to normal in a few days.

Marijuana exposure is a pet emergency. While we are starting to use things like CBD more and more in our pet patients, please remember that we don’t recommend starting any kind of medication without our assistance. Our goal is to keep your pet as safe and healthy as possible. 

Pot and pets may cross paths more than we would like, but with quick action and good veterinary care, this is one toxicity that often has a happy ending.