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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
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.
The Effects of Weed on Cats
Caturday falls on a rather auspicious day this year if you happen to indulge in the human equivalent of catnip. If you partake in certain extra-curricular activities, cat owners should carefully consider where to store your stash. Otherwise, a curious kitty might mistake it for a similarly herbal cat-friendly treat. Although marijuana has been deregulated across Canada and some regions of the United States, exposure has less than desirable effect on our feline friends.
The effects of weed on cats can result in a stressful experience, for cats and cat owners alike, and result in an unwanted trip to the veterinarian. Similarly, the beloved Caturday is a day meant to bond and celebrate with your feline friend.
Whether you are a seasoned cat owner or first-time kitten owner, your cat’s health and safety is a top priority as part of being a responsible pet owner.
We sat down with Trupanion veterinarian, Dr. Caroline Wilde, to discuss the effects of weed on cats and best practices to keep your furry friend safe, happy, and healthy.
The effects of weed on cats: what every pet owner should know
What can happen to your cat if they ingest weed
Whether you are actively using these products or they are sitting around your home, be mindful of cats and kittens that enjoy being curious. Also, ingestion, no matter what type of product, can have quite an impact. “Marijuana intoxication in cats can happen when they ingest edibles or parts of plants, as well as inhalation of smoke, and can cause variable signs in cats ranging from sedation to agitation,” states on-site Trupanion veterinarian, Dr. Caroline Wilde. Further, even the smallest ingestion can affect your cat’s health and behavior.
The effects of weed on cats: what to look for
As a pet owner, it can be hard to detect if your cat has ingested marijuana. Dr. Wilde weighs in on what to look for –
“Marijuana can cause variable signs depending on the pet. Also, there are no reliable tests to determine whether a pet has ingested marijuana in any of its forms. Determination of whether a pet has marijuana intoxication is generally based on history and clinical signs.”
Essentially, the only way to determine if your cat has ingested marijuana is knowing if your cat has accessed your stash and if something is missing. Rather than leave it to chance, consider doing a sweep and make sure all substances have been safely stored away.
If you feel your cat might be exhibiting signs of marijuana ingestion/toxicity, consider the following:
Signs of marijuana ingestion / toxicity
- Dilated pupils
- Head Bobbing
- Swaying or seeming wobbly
Also, ingestion can cause low heart rate and blood pressure, hyperactivity, and aggression. Naturally, if you have any questions or cause for concern with your cat, seek veterinary care immediately. Further, your veterinarian can monitor accordingly and start an appropriate treatment plan.
Best practices for keeping your cat safe
Finally, the best practice for keeping your cat safe is to keep your personal products put away, especially when you’re not home. Additionally, all marijuana products, even plants, and baked goods edibles should be put away appropriately.
Wilde includes these necessary best practices to consider for keeping your cat safe –
“Cats love to eat plants! Protect your cat and keep marijuana/THC in any form locked up or stored in a safe place. Also, avoid exposing your cat to second- hand smoke. In addition, if you think your pet might have been exposed to any form of marijuana, be honest with your vet. Essentially, we have to know what we are treating to be able to best help you.”
Also, by keeping a pet-friendly home and a tidy pet space it is providing a safe home. Further, you are able to relax and enjoy the day with your furry friends knowing that they can play and relax, without the worry that they might find some goodies to ingest.
Essentially, an ingestion of any kind, other than cat food, should result in an immediate trip to the veterinarian, seek medical care for your furry friends.
The effects of weed on cats: keep your stash in a safe place
Caturday is a day to celebrate your feline friends. If you are partaking in goodies on four-twenty, be sure to be mindful of how your activities and products affect your cats. Essentially, by keeping your stash stored, keeping a tidy space, and a smoke-free area for your feline friends to retreat to, everyone can enjoy the day comfortably.
Learn the importance of understanding the effects of weed on cats and best practices to keep your furry friend safe, happy, and healthy.