Pet Safety and Legal Marijuana – What you Need to Know

Happy new year! Marijuana is now officially legal for recreational use in Illinois. People are lined up at dispensaries to bring home pot in its various forms. But while humans are imbibing, how can you keep your pet safe around marijuana products?

Marijuana (Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica) has over 80 different cannabinoids present, but the two most commonly recognized compounds are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). When consumed, THC is what causes the potentially toxic psychotropic effects while CBD is generally safe (consult your vet for more information).

Pets can ingest cannabis in different ways – by eating a left over joint, inhaling second hand smoke, or eating edibles such as brownies, chocolates, or candies. It only takes a small amount of exposure to cause toxicity in dogs or cats, though dogs are more susceptible to toxic effects due to having a higher number of cannabinoid receptors in their brains as well as being more likely to devour anything they come across.

Symptoms of marijuana toxcitiy in pets are similar to its effects in humans, including:

  • Lethargy or agitation/hyperactivity
  • Dialed pupils, a dazed expression, or glassy eyes
  • Difficulty walking or appearing uncoordinated like they’re drunk
  • Vomiting or excessive drooling
  • Dribbling urine
  • Tremors, seizures, or coma

Symptoms of ingestion can occur five minutes to twelve hours after consuming an item with cannabis, and can last for thirty minutes to several days until the drug can be metabolized.

There is no official safe level of exposure to marijuana in pets because it can affect individual pets differently. The lethal dose of THC in pets is very high, but deaths have been reported after consuming medical-grade THC. However, since it is hard to tell how much a pet has been exposed to, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Treatment of toxicity depends on the dose received and the method. A veterinarian may induce vomiting or administer activated charcoal to neutralize the cannabinoids, or provide supportive care to keep the pet comfortable and hydrated until the drug can be metabolized and its effects wear off. And maybe play a little Pink Floyd or Grateful Dead for them.

Products containing marijuana or cannabinoids should be kept away from pets. Fido and Fluffy are tempted by treats so take extra steps to secure your stash out of their reach in high cabinets or locked drawers. Keep pets away from areas where smoking happens to avoid second hand exposure or the temptation of a left-over joint.

If you suspect potential poisoning of your pet, consult your veterinarian or call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661.