Marijuana: Perfect for People, Not for Pets

Marijuana has been in the news daily and will be for the next year as it becomes legal to own and grow in Canada. Marijuana has many real and touted benefits for people and undoubtedly will make many people happier in more ways than one. With the increased availability of marijuana, there is an increased likelihood that our dogs and cats may sample some of the greenery.

Now there are some thoughts revolving around the benefits of marijuana for pets and this may be the case as more research is carried out. In areas where marijuana has been legalized, there has been up to a four-fold increase in poisonings with marijuana so as we come closer to legalization, it will be important to ensure the safety of our four-legged family members.

Pets, especially dogs have higher numbers of cannabinoid receptors. These cannabinoid receptors are where the THC of marijuana attaches. When these receptors have THC attached, the effects of marijuana become apparent. Since pets have a higher number of cannabinoid receptors this makes them more susceptible to the effects (both good and bad) of the THC found in marijuana.  Dogs and cats can have signs of toxicity or poisoning with even a small amount of marijuana.

Signs of toxicity in cats and dogs include stumbling, low heart rate, low temperature, startling or jumping with sounds or by being touched. Dribbling of urine is also common in pets after ingesting marijuana.  With newer forms of marijuana in the form of ‘roll on’ medication, ingestion is not the only way pets can become poisoned. These signs may last up to four days and can be life-threatening if the patient is not eating or able to keep warm.

Marijuana and its legalization may be a great boon to us humans. With its increased availability, we need to ensure our pets are protected and any marijuana in the house is stored in places cats and dogs cannot get to.


Written by Dr. David Kerr, DVM