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Marijuana Toxicity in Cats

Many pet owners want to know if their cat will experience any issues when inhaling second-hand pot smoke, eating marijuana brownies, or chewing on the leaves of the plant. While several cat owners out there think marijuana is just another form of catnip, it’s true that there is a drastic difference.

Catnip and Marijuana

Catnip is a plant that comes from the mint family. The perennial herb has downy leaves, purple-spotted white flowers, and a pungent smell that makes cats go crazy when smelled and sleepy when eaten. Marijuana, on the other hand, comes from a plant called Cannabis sativa. The chemical in Cannabis that produces the altered states of consciousness humans enjoy is called Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.

Marijuana is sometimes prescribed for relief from pain and nausea due to chemotherapy in cancer patients, and for certain conditions in AIDS patients. However, it’s still questionable whether there is anything beneficial in the plant for feline friends. In fact, it is strongly suggested that cats do not come close to any smoke from marijuana use, or any other smoke from cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.

How Cats Are Exposed to Marijuana

The most common ways cats are exposed to marijuana is by inhaling smoke or ingesting dried marijuana.   Although people who have experimented with smoking catnip become happy and relaxed, cats should not be forced to “smoke” any substance.

Because of the cumulative effects of inhaling any kind of smoke, it is inadvisable to smoke marijuana anywhere near a cat, particularly one with asthma or other lung diseases. It’s important to be mindful of this, as humans are able to make educated decisions around topics like these, while cats are not.

In some cases, cats may nibble on the leaves and/or buds of the growing marijuana plant. Humans may also feed their cats cookies or brownies made with marijuana. This is a double whammy of injury to the cat, as the brownies and/or cookies may also contain chocolate, which is toxic to cats on its own.

Symptoms

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), your cat may experience extreme sleepiness or excitation, hypersalivation, dilated pupils, or low blood pressure. There may also be instances of low body temperature or even death (although it’s rare). Additional symptoms most commonly observed include:

  • Uncoordination, falling over
  • Depression, sometimes alternating with agitation or anxiety
  • Vomiting
  • Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
  • Seizures, sometimes coma

If your cat demonstrates any of the symptoms above, you should take it to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Warning

  • If you have reason to believe your cat was exposed to marijuana smoke or has ingested marijuana in any form, it’s important to mention this to the vet. Quick treatment may ameliorate the most severe symptoms, and even save your cat’s life.

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Illustration: The Spruce / Hilary Allison

Medical Marijuana for Painful Conditions

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) publishes several articles about marijuana treatments and drug monitoring programs for animals. In 2017, AVMA House of Delegates members urged the Association to develop policies and guidance around marijuana treatments at the Veterinary Information Forum.   One of the topics discussed included the increase of toxicity cases. Delegates like Dr. Dick Sullivan encouraged more research to be performed and for the national association to write to or petition the FDA in order to address marijuana issues to clients.

One article published in June 2013 tackled veterinary marijuana and pet owners who are looking to legalize marijuana for painful symptoms of the disease.   The article quoted a woman who owned a 12-year-old labrador-retriever type of dog which had a tumor of the spleen metastasized to his liver and lungs. Unfortunately, the dog had been given two months to live, and the tramadol given for the pain was not doing the job. Of course, the poor dog was obviously in pain and completely inactive.

Because California legalized marijuana for humans, the dog’s owner was able to buy a glycerin tincture of marijuana that’s sold as a pet medicine in licensed medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Los Angeles. The ​dog’s improvement in activity and the easing of pain was such that the pet owner recommended the drug to other dog owners.

Alternatives

Under the same circumstances, it’s understandable that many pet owners wouldn’t hesitate to give medical marijuana to their own cats if it were available in their state. Thus, there needs to be more research and medicines available for cats experiencing pain.

Until it’s legal for vets to prescribe Cannabis to pets, they won’t have the authority to prescribe the drug. Overconsumption of THC may also create serious health risks in cats. However, hemp-based treatments high in Cannabidiol (CBD) can help. With more research, it’s possible that there is a dosage that can help cats with conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), pancreatitis, arthritis, asthma, and cancer.  

There are HempRx vitamins and oils that can act as a medication or supplement for your cat. Additionally, there are holistic and integrative veterinarians who can work with you to find the right product for your cat.

Pet owners want to know if marijuana is toxic to cats. See whether eating the leaves of the plant or inhaling second-hand smoke makes a difference.

Is Secondhand Cannabis Smoke Bad For Your Pets?

What if you love to smoke weed but happen to have pets? Will your dog or cat get high if your room is filled with some dank smoke? And if they do get high from secondhand smoke, is it actually bad for them? Find out all about secondhand cannabis smoke and how it affects your pets.

Pretty much any time people enjoy cannabis, whether it’s for some chill time at home or when having fun at a concert, there is secondhand cannabis smoke. For us friends of the magical herb, this isn’t a big deal; after all, what’s wrong with the smell of some nice, dank weed? On the other hand, secondhand cannabis smoke is often a nuisance for those who are not into cannabis. And let’s be honest, who could blame them, seeing that the smell sure can be quite intense. But what about your pets? Can they get high from secondhand smoke?

CAN ANIMALS GET HIGH FROM SECONDHAND CANNABIS SMOKE?

The average person doesn’t need to be concerned about getting high from a whiff (or a few) of your secondhand cannabis smoke. The main reason for this is that people are much larger and heavier than household pets, so the small amount of “active stuff” in weed that floats around in secondhand smoke doesn’t really make an impact. But it’s a different story with pets. The smaller size of your dog or cat makes them a lot more sensitive to cannabis, making it possible for them to get high if there’s a lot of secondhand smoke wafting around.

You taking the occasional hit in their general vicinity shouldn’t get your pet high, but a hotbox surely will. And them getting high isn’t the only potentially negative effect of secondhand smoke; dogs and cats also have a much more sensitive respiratory system, and secondhand smoke can cause them serious breathing problems and irritation.

As a general rule, the smaller your pet, the bigger the risk of being harmed by secondhand smoke.

EFFECT OF CANNABIS ON DOGS

Some stoners believe that what’s good for them is also good for their dogs. They may blow weed into their dog’s face or even give them some edibles, not knowing that this can actually result in severe and life-threatening reactions. Not cool. Although your furry friend isn’t going to die by interacting with lingering fumes around the house from time to time, blowing it in their face or feeding it to them is seriously irresponsible, and may cause serious symptoms such as shaking, vomiting, drooling, lethargy, and even seizures.

CBD IS DIFFERENT

Then again, if your dog has a medical condition and you think CBD may be of benefit, this could indeed be a possible mode of treatment. However, you should first consult with your vet before medicating your pet. Unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating, so it won’t cause them to experience the same mind-altering effects. However, even if you’re smoking a CBD-rich strain, you still want to avoid having your pet come into contact with the smoke. Your vet will likely recommend better ways, like CBD oil, to administer the cannabinoid to your dog, in the right dosage.

EFFECT OF CANNABIS ON CATS

Just like dogs and most other small pets, cats can get stoned from cannabis. Their smaller size makes them especially receptive to the THC from secondhand smoke. In a study from 2018, researchers found THC in the bloodstream of cats that had been exposed to secondhand cannabis smoke. This indicates that cats respond to THC and metabolise it just like we do. But don’t think that they would enjoy it if you shared your stash with them. They sure won’t. Just as with dogs, having your cat partake in your love for weed is really a bad idea, and potentially dangerous for your four-legged friend.

MARIJUANA ISN’T JUST TOXIC FOR PETS, THEY ALSO DON’T ENJOY BEING HIGH

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has established that cannabis is toxic for cats, dogs, and horses. Marijuana intoxication can lead to serious side effects that range from depression, to vomiting, to sleeping troubles, low blood pressure, drooling, seizures, and in extreme cases, even coma and death.

Another issue has to do with the way animals experience the “high”. While most of us certainly enjoy it, your pets will have no idea what’s going on, so it may end up being quite traumatic for them. In other words, even if your cat or dog doesn’t show obvious signs of marijuana intoxication, they are likely feeling freaked out by what’s happening.

Like dogs, CBD oil for cats is a valid option for some; consult with your vet first.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PET GETS INTO YOUR STASH

So, what if your dog or your cat finds your weed cookies? Here’s the good news; although marijuana is bad for dogs and cats, fatal accidents from weed are relatively rare. The side effects from marijuana intoxication, such as the above-mentioned, are normally short-lived and last no longer than 72 hours.

That being said, if you suspect that Fluffy got into your stash, this is an emergency and you should consult your vet immediately. Likewise, if you think that your pet may have gotten too intoxicated from secondhand smoke, contact your vet as soon as possible just to make sure. If you notice strange behaviour in your pets such as panting, pacing, restlessness, or general distress, it may be time to act. Getting your cat or dog to the vet is particularly important if your pet is older and/or has an underlying health condition.

OTHER HEALTH RISKS FOR YOUR PETS FROM SECONDHAND SMOKE

These days, even the most adamant cigarette smokers know that the habit is bad for them. Lighting up a joint can also release unhealthy substances that one doesn’t necessarily want in their body. While those who smoke normally know about these risks, the word is still out on whether secondhand smoke is equally bad for your health. Some studies say it is at least as bad as smoking, while other studies suggest it has fewer risks. But even if secondhand smoke is less likely to cause long-term chronic health problems, it is known to cause acute irritation. Your pets are super sensitive to the harmful substances in smoke, even if the smoke doesn’t contain THC.

If you are someone who smokes regularly in the home, your rugs, furniture, and curtains probably have lingering smoke sticking to them too. Over time, this may be harmful to your pets. Consider giving these a deep clean once in a while.

WHAT IF YOU LOVE SMOKING WEED, BUT HAVE PETS?

There are definitely some things you can do to reduce the risk for your pets when enjoying cannabis.

• Vaping

Vaping cannabis instead of smoking has a whole lot of advantages. Since vaping skips the entire combustion part, it releases much fewer harmful chemicals than smoke. Vapor will also disperse quickly, and will not linger in your room or stick to your furniture. In other words, it’s cleaner and healthier not just for you, but also your pets. So consider vaping as the better alternative if you love Fluffy as much as your weed!

• Keep your stash safe

Whether you have a bunch of jars with some juicy buds or have just gotten some “loaded” baked goods from your weed-loving grandmother, you should keep the stuff safe and sound so that your pets cannot get into it. These days, with cannabis edibles being increasingly legal in many places, vets are getting flooded with dog and cat owners whose pets have gotten into their cookies. Such accidents could be easily avoided if you keep your marijuana in a safe container, securely closed and away from your pets.

• Ventilate your room

If you are smoking with your pets around, open the windows and don’t let your room get all sticky and stinky with your cannabis smoke. Needless to say, don’t blow smoke in Fluffy’s direction “just for fun”—this is just mean.

• Watch your pets

Always keep an eye on your pets. If your pet is behaving oddly and you think it may have gotten into your stash, don’t hesitate and consult the vet right away.

PETS AND SECONDHAND SMOKE—THE BOTTOM LINE

If you love cannabis like most of us, but you also own pets, know that they don’t necessarily share your enthusiasm. In fact, marijuana is bad for them. If you are a responsible cannabis smoker, you should also be a responsible pet owner.

Can secondhand cannabis smoke make your pets high? Learn all about secondhand smoke and pet safety!