Can My Dog, Or My Cat, Get High? 2024

Authored byVeronic Fournier - May 20, 2024

Marijuana, weed, cannabis, ganja, pot, herb...

I am talking here about the dried leaves and flowers of hemp plants.

Cannabis is well known for its psychoactive effects on people when smoked or ingested and for its therapeutic applications.

 

Is it possible to have a stoned dog or cat?

Could your dog benefit from medicinal marijuana too? Could your cat get high if he accidentally eats weed?

You’re about to find out.

 

A Little Bit of History on Marijuana Plants

Marijuana leaf being held.

A few thousand years ago, mankind was already cultivating cannabis for different purposes.

Did you know marijuana is somehow related to the mint family?

Our ancestors would make the most of every part of the marijuana plant. The flowers and the leaves were used as medicine. The stems and stalks as fiber plant material. While the seeds were used as a source of protein.

There weren’t many more concerns reported about this plant before the 19th century. Reports of marijuana "poisoning" blamed on cannabis intoxication began spreading during the early 20th century.

Marijuana and similar marijuana products became illegal—akin to other drugs that are chemical-based and used for recreational purposes—pretty much everywhere after that.

However, minds are starting to open up again today regarding this fascinating plant these days. Many places are actually considering to legalize marijuana in their jurisdictions.

Interestingly, a few states legalized cannabis in the past few years and all of Canada last October.

 

Medical Marijuana is "Fairly High" in Benefits (for Pet Owners)

Medical marijuana benefits.

I am sure you heard about people using marijuana (and cannabis extract) for recreational use. It is not uncommon.

But what's really interesting is that marijuana—in the case of medical marijuana—is actually used as a medicine for its therapeutic effects. This is partly attributed to the compound tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.

There is increased accessibility for marijuana used for medical conditions presently, especially among cancer patients.

You can even see compounds derived from marijuana and cannabis plants administered through intravenous fluids (IV fluids) these days.

Cannabis with medical-grade THC has been described to be helpful in many circumstances :

  • Can ease chronic and acute pain

  • Helps with anxiety

  • Stabilizes blood pressure

  • Good anti-nausea medication

  • Helps with epilepsy and urinary incontinence

  • Helps fight cancer and prevents it as well

  • Helps Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's patients

  • Very effective appetite stimulant

 

Marijuana Toxicity is Highly Possible in Pets

Dog lying on bed.

Even if cannabis has been proven to help humans through different studies, it cannot be applied directly to dogs and cats.

The brain of a cat acts quite differently than ours. The same applies to dogs. Their "cannabinoid receptors" are significantly much more sensitive compared to humans.

As reported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, past experimentations with respect to administering marijuana on animals indicate only their toxic effects on them. These include both ingested marijuana and secondhand marijuana smoke.

 

Marijuana exposure can be serious to pets

Your animal best friend can be prone to marijuana toxicity or THC toxicity, which is a type of poisoning.

This is a more extreme form of marijuana intoxication and can set off alarming effects like altered blood pressure and seizures in severe cases. Just to emphasize, marijuana toxicity can be fatal to your pet!

It can be likened to that of chocolate toxicity in dogs and cats. Both THC via marijuana ingestion and chocolate ingestion can trigger the same adverse effects. This can be fatal if your pet has a small body size.

The help of a vet is crucial when this happens. Calling the pet poison helpline is also possible.

More research is now being financed and we are starting to learn about the medicinal applications of cannabis for pets. However, research takes a lot of time and we are not there yet.

Pet owners should keep in mind that a single study can take up to 15 years to be completed.

While it is possible that we will have dogs or cats with cannabis in the near future, our pets will need to be patient!

 

The Point of View of Veterinary Medicine

Two vets checking the dog.

It is not legal for a veterinarian to prescribe medicinal marijuana for an animal, even in a state or country where it is legal for humans.

Even if the animal is suffering from terminal cancer or is experiencing seizures, there is no guideline yet regarding a safe dosage for them. The benefits are still unknown.  

In some states, it is unethical to even recommend it. A vet—even if he is open to the idea—could lose his license or worse, go to jail, if he prescribes this plant to your pup or cat today.

More information will need to be gathered before marijuana products are recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

So far, all we know for sure is that your pooch and your cat CAN get high on this organic drug and that can become quickly dramatic—meaning "toxic."

 

Even Accidental Exposure to Cannabis is Poisoning Pets

Cat sleeping on the table.

Dogs and cats have a brain anatomically different than humans. They have more cannabinoid receptors than humans.

When exposed to marijuana (or marijuana-containing products), their health status could take a nosedive. This is why it is highly recommended to only use this drug in a well-ventilated room.

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main component in marijuana responsible for its psychoactive effects.

Intoxication in pets usually follows the ingestion of cannabis, but a mild intoxication can also follow secondhand smoke exposure. Never use cannabis when pets are in the same room because secondhand smoke is highly possible!

This also applies to baked goods and edibles. Ingested weed is still the same for pets regardless of how they end up inside their bodies.

Fellow pet owner, I will share with you a story before we move on to the next topic...

One day, two dogs from the same household came to the clinic where I work showing intoxication symptoms. These dogs have been seen eating excrement by the side of a trail in the woods a few hours before.

We immediately tried to induce vomiting to remove the drug from their system. They were displaying indicators of low blood pressure and other clinical signs. The urine test showed marijuana toxicity.

Moral of the story: if you are a marijuana consumer and nature calls when you are hiking, know that THC is found in feces and can be dangerous for dogs with weird habits. Please, bury your belongings. (Cat owners, take note, too!)

The dogs survived, but it was an expensive day of treatment and they're also in for comprehensive supportive care afterwards. Allowing the drug wear to pass naturally can be extremely dangerous for pets in most cases.

 

What If My Dog or Cat Ate Weed? Is He in Danger of Marijuana Poisoning?

Labrador Retriever dog.

What does a pooch or cat that is stoned on medical marijuana look like? It might surprise you! I am sure we all have in mind the same image of a smiling pet with his eyes half-closed, but the reality is quite different.

Clinical signs of the toxic effects of marijuana on dogs:

  • Lethargy

  • Lack of coordination or voluntary movements

  • Dilated pupils

  • Vomiting

  • Tremors

  • Hypothermia or erratic body temperature

  • Urinary incontinence

Clinical signs of marijuana intoxication in cats:

Any pet experiencing these symptoms should be seen immediately by a vet, especially if you have doubts or know these could be related to the consumption of the drug cannabis.

There is even a possibility that activated charcoal will be used to counter the toxic effects on your canine pet or cat.

If you are sure that your pup or cat ate weed, share the information with the vet and his team so they can help your animal companion better and faster.

 

What About CBD?

Is CBD safe for pets?

There are hundreds of different compounds found in the cannabis plant. THC and CBD are the most prominent and almost identical on a molecular level. Although they are very similar, they do not interact with our brain receptors in the same way.

CBD will basically deliver many of the same health benefits as THC but without the psychoactive effects. This is why it is preferred by many, and even tried for pets.

Because it’s all-new, it’s hard to say if it works. However, it hasn’t been shown to do any harm.

Even if it is very popular these days,  it still has to be used carefully. If you ever decide to go down the CBD route with your cat or pooch to help ease some symptoms, I would recommend the advice of a vet to find a safe labeled product that surely contains no THC.

I hope I helped you understand a bit more about the mechanics of this fascinating plant. It is still a controversial subject, but also very interesting!

 


About the author

Veronic Fournier
Veronic Fournier

ANIMAL HEALTH TECHNICIAN

Véronique Fournier shares her extensive pet health know-how on Zumalka through her articles.

Véronique’s background as an animal wellness advocate began in Cégep La Pocatière in Quebec, which led to comprehensive internships and training with respect to the breeding, rehabilitation, and monitoring of various types of animals. The institutions she has worked with include the Quebec Aquarium and the SOS Miss Dolittle shelter, just to name a few.

Her immersion with various veterinary clinics in British Columbia and other places has made Veronique not just knowledgeable, but also quite perceptive in zeroing in on the right strategy to help keep pets in the best of health.

And can we get you in on a secret? Veronique shares that she has already made a lot of canine pals due to her stint as a foster mom in several shelters. Isn’t that cool?


6 comments


  • Homeoanimal November 7, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Hi Ross and Alex, Thank you for your comments. For sure this article can be controversial, we understand. However, since the medical studies have not been fully finished, we do prefer letting all our fellow pet parents know the potential dangers. There is no denying the medicinal advantages of well made remedies without the side effects…. but all loving pet parents will also want to know any possible risks before purchase. Also, since Cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes in Quebec Canada, we want to avoid any pet parents trying to use this for their pets as there are very high risks involved.


  • Ross November 7, 2019 at 9:14 am

    I do not agree with this article either. I encourage the author to do more research. The cases you speak of are obvious cases of overdose and not small medicinal quantities that are extremely helpful to pets in pain and with all kinds of other issues.


  • dorothy August 30, 2019 at 10:09 am

    I purchased treats for my dog who has the worst separation anxiety ever. They are called Happy Hempy Puppy. lol, I have fed them to her before I crate her and leave and she is so much calmer. She never had any ill effects from them, the only thing she did was want to eat when I got back. She apparently had the munchies. They were a life saver and i am sure better for her than the addictive anxiety meds the vet wanted to give her and 60 buckx for a bottle of only 30 pills. I also had a pit/lab mix who was 18 yrs old and had hip and joint issues, He moved much better while “under the influence of thc” Now maybe these dogs had an allergic reaction? Maybe they were given way too much, but I have seen many a dog actually stand and inhale a shotgun from pot smoke, and none died, none did any of the craziness i saw illustrated in this article. IDK who is wrong or right, I just know it helped my pups


  • Alex - HomeoAnimal June 17, 2019 at 11:16 am

    Hello Alexxa and Peter.

    Thank you for sharing you opinion about this controversial subject.

    But THC and cannabis consumption in cat and dog has been proven toxic.

    You can read more about is on the Pet Poison Helpline website :
    https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-safety-tips/marijuana-toxicity-pets/

    We suggest to be careful and to abstain giving THC to pets.

    Again thank you for your opinion, it matters to us!


  • Peter Lindvall June 17, 2019 at 11:06 am

    I’m with Alexxa…

    Untainted Cannabis, THC is not going to hurt any mammal.

    My 10 tear old German Shepherd gets more relief from THC-A, than he does from CBD.
    I recently put him on White Willow bark, and he’s as playful, and mobile like a young dog.
    Both the CBD, and the THC-A, are grown organically in-house, without any pesticides.


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