How Marijuana Can Affect Your Dog Or Cat

As marijuana legalization spreads and its use becomes increasingly common among Americans, it's important to consider the health risks for our pets. While research supports many possible benefits of medical marijuana, there's always a chance your pet could ingest something harmful and have an adverse reaction.

Commercially Grown Cannabis Indica
credit: SEASTOCK/iStock/GettyImages

Here are some of the most important things to know about consumption of marijuana around a pet.

Will secondhand marijuana smoke harm my pet?

Not according to Dr. Eric Barchas, self-described as "the internet's go-to guy" for questions about pets and marijuana. "Unless the animal is in a room with extreme amounts of smoke, inhaling marijuana smoke is not likely to lead to intoxication." He continues, "Pets do have very sensitive respiratory systems. Smoke can irritate your pet's lungs, potentially causing a cough or exacerbating existing conditions like asthma." Your best bet is to put your pet outside or remove them from your smoking room.

What happens if my pet consumes marijuana?

Golden Retriever is posing for the camera.
credit: Jaroslav Frank/iStock/GettyImages

If you suspect your cat or dog has eaten marijuana or a marijuana-infused product, call the Pet Poison Helpline immediately and seek veterinary care. Marijuana poisoning can be life-threatening for a dog or cat, depending on the amount or strength of marijuana ingested. It is not usually safe for pets to ingest marijuana unless under a veterinarian's supervision for medical purposes.

Symptoms of pet marijuana poisoning include:

  • Lethargy or, alternatively, hyperactivity (including excessive barking or meowing)

  • Dilated pupils

  • Low heart rate, low respiratory rate

  • Seizure

  • Coma

Does medical marijuana work for pets?

Crazy cat
credit: ignasi_martn/iStock/GettyImages

While the benefits of medical marijuana for people has solid science and research to support it, we do not have the same information to support medical marijuana for pets.

Anecdotal evidence has suggested that pet-specific products appear to alleviate pain in some pets. However, until the science is in, the benefits of medical marijuana for pets have been heavily debated. Of course, its use can carry some risks: Pets can be poisoned by too strong a dose. Consult your vet if you're considering using marijuana to treat your pet's medical condition.

How can I keep marijuana away from my pets?

Cannabis in Glass Jars
credit: sand86/iStock/GettyImages

Like any products, plants, or medications dangerous to pets, you should store them in a place out of paws' reach — a tall shelf or a cabinet or drawer with a child lock. Using a jar can act as an additional safeguard; Even if your pet discovers your stash, the container and twist-off lid are impenetrable.

Marijuana-infused edible products pose a special danger, as many contain additional substances poisonous to pets. Especially the fun stuff: cookies, brownies, and candies containing chocolate or the sweetener xylitol can be deadly. If you suspect your pet has consumed a marijuana-infused product, especially one containing chocolate and a "sugar-free" sweetener, immediately seek veterinary care. Veterinary bills can range from $200 to $5,000 for accidental ingestion — including the diagnostic testing and treatment — and with pet insurance, most claims are covered.

Content provided by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. Healthy Paws is the No. 1 customer-rated provider of insurance for dogs and cats in the U.S. Get a free quote today!