Weed and Pets: How Does Pot Affect Animals?

A whole lot of people really love their pets, and a fair number of them also love marijuana. Can the two coexist? With legal marijuana on the rise and medical marijuana available in 29 states, a question we get a lot is: “Will weed harm my pet?” Most people instinctively know that cannabis isn’t good for cats and dogs (or any other fuzzy or feathered companion), and they take measures to ensure that their pets aren’t exposed to marijuana. But sometimes, accidents happen, and it’s good to know what can occur when weed and pets mix.

Smoking Weed with Pets

Sad Pug Stoned Pets
Photo by: Anna Baburkina/Shutterstock
The most common exposure pets get to marijuana is secondhand smoke from their owners. Dogs especially are likely to hang around while you smoke, so they’re the most likely to experience negative side effects from secondhand smoke. You may be glad to hear that the worst thing that can happen if a pet is intoxicated from smoke is that they’ll become intoxicated. While the cumulative effects of secondhand smoke are bad for any oxygen-breathing creature’s lungs, it’s nearly impossible for a pet to become high from it unless you’re hotboxing a very small space with a huge amount of smoke.

According to Dr. Eric Barchas, “Unless an animal is confined in a pillowcase or in a room with extreme amounts of smoke, inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke is not likely to lead to intoxication.” Smoking weed with pets isn’t a good idea, but it also won’t get your pet high as long as you’re consuming it responsibly and not doing anything obnoxious like blowing smoke directly in a pet’s face.

Ingestible Weed and Pets

Here’s where things get scary. If a pet eats weed rather than being exposed to smoke, they may begin showing frightening signs of intoxication and can die of marijuana poisoning if left alone and untreated. This applies to all pets, but dogs are the most frequently affected due to their general enthusiasm for tearing up packages and eating anything that’s not nailed down. In fact, 95% of reported marijuana poisonings in pets are in dogs.

These are the main symptoms of marijuana poisoning in pets:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Low heart rate & blood pressure
  • Impaired mobility
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Sensitivity to sudden noises
  • Anxiety & panic

In extreme cases, some animals can experience seizures or see their lethargy drop suddenly into a coma state. Dogs actually have more cannabinoid receptors in their brains than we do, and that can lead to them experiencing more acute symptoms of intoxication (and subsequent poisoning) than a human would. Cats tend to try and hide pain and other unpleasant symptoms, so it can be more difficult to detect intoxication in felines. A decrease in coordination is often the biggest hint to marijuana poisoning in a cat.

What to Do When Pets Eat Weed

Happy Beagle Smiles
Photo by: SomPhoto/Shutterstock
So, you’ve determined that your pet has signs of marijuana intoxication. What do you do now? The safest course of action is to go straight to the vet and have them check out your animal. But sometimes that’s not always a practical (or affordable) first step, so follow these instructions to triage your pet beforehand.

  1. Determine the Source
    The first thing to do is figure out what exactly your pet ate. Dried flower is the least dangerous in this situation since the THC is not yet activated. Edibles can be particularly dangerous since they’re delicious and your pet is likely to eat as much as they can put their paws on. Concentrates are extremely dangerous, since they are inherently high in THC, and cannabutter can carry the risk of pancreatitis since it’s so high in fat. Any eaten edible containing chocolate warrants an immediate vet visit, since chocolate is extremely toxic to both cats and dogs.
  2. Check Symptoms
    If there’s no chocolate, butter, or concentrate involved in the poisoning, you can go ahead and check your pet’s symptoms. A mild intoxication will have your pet wandering around on wobbly legs with a pitiful look in their dilated pupils. They may drool and not want to move much thanks to the weed-induced lethargy.
    However, a more severe poisoning can result in a loss of motor control and bladder function. And the same mechanism that dilates their eyes can actually cause them to lose body heat. If your pet is extremely uncoordinated, incontinent, and shivering, take them to the vet right away.
  3. Soak Up or Spit Up
    If your pet only seems to be experiencing mild discomfort and lethargy, they are probably okay. It takes about 3 grams of THC per kilogram of weight for a dog to die of a THC overdose, and you will definitely see extreme symptoms like vomiting and uncontrollable diarrhea if a pet is anywhere near approaching that threshold. If the pet’s condition isn’t worsening, you can try to either soak up the rest of the THC in their stomach before it’s absorbed or induce vomiting. Using activated charcoal tablets is significantly more pleasant for both you and your ailing pet, but if they’re not available you can induce vomiting by administering one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide per 10 pounds of your pet’s weight. However, this can result in extreme distress (for both of you) and can end up causing more vomiting than is productive. If you feel your pet’s symptoms are bad enough to need vomit induced, you are probably better off just taking them to the vet.

If your pet ever consumes marijuana, don’t be afraid to take them to the vet. Regardless of the legality of marijuana in your state, vets are first and foremost invested in the health of your animal and won’t grill you as to how it happened. Weed and pets definitely do not mix, but responsible storage and knowing what to do should keep your pets happy and healthy.


Article by: Spencer Grey