How does the consumption of cannabis affect pets?

How does the consumption of cannabis affect pets?
Vet carrying out an examination of a dog in Ghent, 9 August 2021. Credit: James Arthur Gekiere / Belga

While it is usually accidental, it is unfortunately common for pets to get into their owner's cannabis. The drug can be ingested from resign, leaves or even baked goods. Pets can also get high from marijuana through second hand smoke.

While ingesting cannabis is relatively safe for humans, that is not the case for dogs. Dogs that ingest or inhale cannabis experience serious side effects that can alter their brain's chemical messengers like serotonin and dopamine.

Dogs have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains, potentially making cannabis more harmful. Even ingesting a small amount can be toxic to dogs. Fortunately ingesting cannabis is rarely fatal for dogs and cats. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the minimum lethal oral dose of THC is very high and fatalities were rare until the development of medical-grade marijuana products.

Veterinarian Fabienne Marchand tells La Dernière Heure that a dog who had ingested marijuana was brought to her clinic not able to "stand on his feet." It was "shaking, looked haggard and had neurological problems." The veterinarian had to put the dog on an IV for 24 hours before he recovered.

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Cannabis is also considered to be very toxic for cats to ingest or inhale. Some owners confuse the effects of marijuana with catnip, when they are in fact very different. Catnip is a common herb within the mint family, when it ingests the herb, they experience pain relief, relaxation and playfulness. A cat who ingests or inhales cannabis experiences symptoms of vomiting, incoordination and in extreme cases seizures or coma.

Cannabis consumption can have positive impacts on an animal's health, when provided medically and in a specific form. Products that contain CBD can alleviate pain and provide a feeling of relaxation for anxious animals.

VCA Animal Hospitals urges pet owners who use cannabis to store it in high cabinets or locked drawers to prevent the animal from getting ahold of the substance.

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