Marijuana & Pets: Can Dogs & Cats Get High?

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older dog behind marijuana leaf

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana (weed, cannabis) is a mixture of dried leaves and flowers from cannabis plants (e.g. Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica). Marijuana contains cannabinoids, the most famous of which is called tetrahydrocannabinal (THC). THC is known as a “psychoactive substance.” It can cause central nervous system changes in people to produce a sensation of being “high.” Another well-known cannabinoid found in cannabis plants is cannabidiol (CBD), which is currently being studied for numerous potential benefits (e.g. seizures, pain, anxiety). CBD does not produce a “high” sensation. The distinctions are important because numerous CBD- and THC-containing products are out in the world today. Pets are notorious for getting into things that they shouldn’t and knowing what a pet was exposed to will help get them treated quickly and properly.

Can Dogs and Cats Get High?

Can dogs and cats get high? Yes; however, the changes dogs and cats experience while under marijuana’s influence may not be pleasant or comfortable for them. When dogs and cats are exposed to marijuana (e.g. inhaling smoke, eating the dried plant, drinking oil/liquid form, eating food/edibles that contain THC), they can experience symptoms of marijuana toxicity. Disorientation, incoordination or trouble walking, memory trouble, and increased sleepiness are common. Exposure to high amounts can lead to abnormal heart rate, uncontrolled urination, trouble keeping a normal body temperature, throwing up, drooling, increased barking or making noise, and increased light, sound, and touch sensitivity. These symptoms can be severe enough to require veterinary care, including hospitalization, treatment to decrease marijuana absorption, and medications to control the symptoms.

Is Weed Bad for Dogs and Cats?

Experiencing psychoactive symptoms as a pet is scary, no matter how mild or severe. It happens without their consent or understanding. The consequences of marijuana can also occasionally be very serious. Although rare, some pets have died from exposure to either very large amounts of THC or the products (i.e. foods, chemicals, or oils) mixed in with it. For example, the amount of THC a pet absorbs from eating some of the dried plant may be much lower than if they were to eat edibles or drink concentrated marijuana liquid meant for an e-cigarette (i.e. vaping). Regardless, all marijuana products should be kept away from pets in order to prevent them from getting sick.

My Dog or Cat Ate Weed or an Edible – Now What?

Call your veterinarian right away if you think or know your pet was exposed to marijuana. The vet will likely want to examine your pet. They will want to know how much marijuana your pet was exposed to and what kind (e.g. smoke, dried leaves, edible, etc.) to best help with treatment. This type of discussion around cats and weed or dogs and weed may be uncomfortable, but it is important to remember that your vet wants what is best for your pet and wants to help them get well. If you have pet health insurance, make sure you understand the details of your policy to see if this type of accident is covered. Luckily, with proper treatment and time, most pets recover quickly and experience no long-term effects.