Pot and Pets: Cannabis Safety for Critters

marijuana safety for pets

Pot and Pet Safety

With a steady increase in medical marijuana licenses being issued and legalization of recreational pot use, veterinarians across Canada are dealing with an increase in marijuana toxicity cases in pets, while simultaneously awaiting research that may support potential therapeutic uses. Canadians now have legal access to cannabis flowers and oils, which offers an increased opportunity for curious cats and dogs to get into their owner’s stash if not properly stored or if they’re used to make edibles, creams, or salves.

With recreational marijuana legalized, vets expect to see a significant increase in THC toxicity cases in cats and dogs. To help keep your pets safe around pot, we’ve put together these tips to help you keep your critters safe around cannabis, recognize the symptoms of marijuana toxicity, and what to do if you think your pet has eaten or inhaled pot.

1. Store Your Stash Safely

The easiest way to keep your pets safe from an accidental overdose is to keep your pot away from your petsespecially any edibles that may be tempting for your pooch. Not only do we recommend keeping your stash out of sight and out of reach from your pets, we recommend keeping it in a sealed container that your clever cats and dogs can’t break in to.

You’ll also want to make sure to clean out any ashtrays or paraphernalia that may have small amounts of marijuana in them to keep pets from cleaning up any leftovers.

2. Keep Your Pets Away From Second Hand Exposure

No matter how you consume marijuana, it’s safest to keep your pets away from any second-hand exposure.

Smoking: Pets are extremely sensitive to the effects of THC and it can be a terrifying and potentially dangerous experience for them. Never intentionally blow smoke in their face – not only is it a cruel thing to do to your pet, it can later lead to a costly vet bill to deal with the toxicity symptoms that follow. If your pet has a pre-existing respiratory condition like bronchitis, asthma, or a collapsing trachea, it’s especially important to keep them away from second-hand smoke to avoid respiratory distress on top of their scary symptoms.

Edibles: Marijuana edibles are possibly the most dangerous consumption method for pet owners due to the ingredients that may be lurking in their baked goods and the amount of marijuana that might be consumed at one time by a pet. Dogs, in particular, are at a higher risk from cannabis-infused foods since many are made with chocolate and xylitol, which are both toxic substances to dogs, even in small quantities.

Likewise, edibles made with cannabis butter or large amounts of other fats can also be dangerous for dogs, as they can cause pancreatitis. If you do consume edibles, be especially careful with your crumbs or leaving your goodies unattended…even for just a minute. Most dogs are quick to clean up anything that drops on the floor or do a counter sweep the minute their owner’s back is turned, and before you know it that entire pan of “special” brownies you just baked could be gone.

While cats may be less likely to get into your edibles since their taste buds can’t process sweetness, it’s best to err on the side of caution for both species just in case your cat has a curious streak.

Lotions, Creams, and Oils: If you use any marijuana-based beauty products, salves, or oils, make sure your pet doesn’t lick you! Depending on your pet’s size, even a small amount of THC, when ingested, can cause scary neurological symptoms in both dogs and cats.

Plants: If you are a home-grower, it best to keep your plants safely away from your pets. Cats, in particular, love to nibble the leaves of several live plants species and may find your plants to be an irresistible treat.

3. Spot the Symptoms

Even the most careful pet parent may have to deal with accidental exposure to marijuana at some point, so it’s important to know the symptoms of THC toxicity.

THC Toxicity Symptoms in Dogs and Cats: The size of the pet and the amount of marijuana that’s consumed will greatly affect the symptoms that they experience. A 75 lb retriever will process a small amount of THC in a much different way than a 10 lb cat will. Generally speaking though, here are the symptoms to be on the lookout for:

  • Panting (in dogs), anxiety, and extreme agitation
  • Dilated pupils, glossy-eyes, and a “dazed and confused” appearance
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Staggering, stumbling, and being unable to walk without falling or losing their balance
  • Drooling and vomiting
  • Diarrhea (especially if a pet has consumed high-fat edibles, cannabutter, or oils)
  • Inability to control their bladders
  • Abnormal heart rate and blood pressure
  • Hypothermia

If you suspect that your pet may have consumed marijuana, it’s important to call your veterinarian right away! They can assess the severity of the symptoms and either recommend monitoring the situation at home, have you come to the clinic for treatment, or triage you to an emergency pet hospital if needed.

If you suspect your pet consumed any edibles containing chocolate, xylitol, or high-fat oils/cannabis butter, we recommend going to your nearest emergency clinic ASAP to ensure your pet has access to the diagnostic tools, medications, and long-term monitoring that may be needed.

4. Be Honest With Your Vet

If your pet has been exposed to marijuana and is showing symptoms of toxicity, either intentionally or accidentally, it’s extremely important to be honest with your vet. 

FUN FACT: YOUR VET DOESN’T CARE IF YOU USE MARIJUANA!

The only thing your vet cares about is knowing what’s causing your pet’s symptoms so they can administer the proper treatments and get them feeling better as soon as possible. When you get to the vet, tell them exactly what they were exposed to (i.e. edibles, dried herb, or smoke), how much you think they had, and how long it has been since they were exposed. Your veterinarian – and your pet – will appreciate your honesty.


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