cat and cannabis

Marijuana Toxicity in Pets.

This shouldn’t be a contentious issue, but in my newbie days blogging as a vet student, I once plainly stated that marijuana is considered toxic to dogs, and you shouldn’t give it to your pets. 

Surprisingly, I was promptly inundated with comments and messages from various cannabis enthusiasts calling me all sorts of things along a conservative right wing agenda (ha!) for daring to say that nobody should be deliberately trying to get their dog or cat stoned. These people also accused me of having a bias against cannabis for calling it ‘toxic’. Though it is the dose that makes the poison, marijuana is considered toxic to dogs and cats. So is chocolate, and panadol (acetaminophen) is highly toxic to cats, but nobody accused me of being politically opposed to those substances. 

Marijuana is toxic to dogs and cats. The veterinarian treating your pet, however, doesn’t give a damn how the animal became exposed to it, and only wants to treat your pet. That includes inducing vomiting if the drug was eaten. Yes, despite marijuana’s touted anti-nausea effects we can still make intoxicated pets vomit, it only renders apomorphine less effective. We have other ways. 

We’re also very interested in whether the pet ingested any chocolate to go along with that mull. As a profession with have no interest in your personal liberties, only the welfare and treatment of that pet. It may be that whatever your pet has eaten alongside or subsequent to the marijuana toxicity could be a bigger problem than the marijuana itself, because frankly they will eat lots of stupid things. Don’t lie to your vets. 

Animals progressing to tremors and seizures from marijuana will require hospitalization and sedation. This is potentially as serious as chocolate toxicity. 

“But wait!” you may cry. “Isn’t cannabis good for seizures?”

Well, that’s complicated. Marijuana is what pharmacologists may refer to as a ‘dirty drug’. That means it contains lots of different compounds which all do different things. Cannabidiol compounds appear to be responsible for the anti-seizure effect, and there are more than a hundred variants of those. The combination of cannabidiols and THC in the particular strain that the pet accidentally got into will vary, because there’s no labeling or really any quality control. It varies from plant to plant, from strain to strain, and even the conditions the plant was grown in. This makes marijuana plants currently useless in veterinary medicine, as we can’t prescribe accurate doses, and it’s still firmly on the toxic list, next to chocolate. 

Affected animals, in addition to tremors, seizures, urinary incontinence and vomiting, often display behavior changes which could be attributed to paranoia, anxiety or possibly even hallucination. 

Herein we find my primary problem with people that deliberately try to get their pets stoned. Some do it because it’s funny. Some do it because they think the pet ‘likes it’ when really the pet probably just likes being near people. Animals do not have a concept of ‘future’ like we do, and they attribute consequences to only very recent actions. It takes a fair amount of thinking to realize that what you’ve just eaten, or inhaled, it causing all these strange sensations in your brain. Pets don’t understand this, and become distressed. They also can’t consent to this. 

Think of dogs and cats as having approximately the same mental capacity as a 2 year old child. You wouldn’t deliberately attempt to get the child stoned, nor should you inflict it upon a pet. If for no other reason, you simply cannot explain to the pet what’s going on, or why you’ve done it to them. 

There is no good reason to give your pets marijuana. Whether you think it’s funny, whether you think the pet wants it, or whether you read on some forum that it’s good for treating ‘X’, the effects are to unpredictable. The side effects are too risky, and the distress you can cause your pet who doesn’t understand what’s going on is simply going to be cruel. 

There are a whole bunch of things in this world that are fine for humans, but not our pets: alcohol, chocolate, coffee, onions and certain medications. Add marijuana to that list.