Marijuana legalisation is a fact. It’s happening all over the world and this means that both smokable weed and related products will soon be all over the place. While this may be good news for users, it also means that people and animals who are not users may inadvertently become exposed to the products. It is therefore important to ensure that marijuana and other products are stored safely and securely.

Can Pets Get High?

The active ingredient that causes a weed high in humans and other animals is a group of chemicals known as cannabinoids. These bind with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body. Like humans, cats do have these receptors. However, the effects on them, especially of the cannabinoid THC, is different than in humans, owing to differences in body size.

Effects of Marijuana Consumption of Your Pet

In the unfortunate event that your pet eats a marijuana cigarette, perhaps left on a table for only a few seconds, there could be serious repercussions. Dogs are notorious for getting into places they shouldn’t really be. It’s in their nature. A weed brownie is going to be an irresistible snack to a dog. However, the effects of THC on them can be serious, if not life threatening. Three grams of THC – the active ingredient in marijuana –  per two pounds of body weight can be lethal for a dog. Medical marijuana has far more concentrations of THC and is definitely dangerous.

Typical symptoms to look out for in dogs include:

  • Wobbly, uncoordinated movements
  • Uncontrolled barking, howling, or whining
  • Dilated pupils and/or unusual eye movements
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Disorientation
  • Incontinence
  • Slowed breathing
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Lethargy
  • Hyperactivity or agitation

Symptoms may sometimes be hard to spot but if you know your pet well, you’ll notice altered behaviour. Check if something is missing. Is your stash where you left it? Any sign of these symptoms are cause for concern and you should call your vet. If the effects are serious, this could indicate a higher intake and a visit to the vet. Mild symptoms may pass after a relatively short while, but watch your pooch closely. Escalation may call for medical attention. Keep the dog well hydrated.

Effects on Cats

Cats, due to their lower body weight compared to dogs, experience the effects of marijuana much more severely. While cats may enjoy the occasional treat of a little catnip, marijuana has a totally different effect on them as it works differently. Usually, catnip will make a cat happy and most likely result in them falling asleep on the floor or sofa. Marijuana, with its active ingredients, the cannabinoid family which includes THC, has a very different effect on cats and can be dangerous.

After consuming cannabis, cats exhibit a similar range of symptoms as seen in dogs, which may include lack of coordination, depression or apathy that may alternate with agitation and anxiety, slow heart rate, lowered body temperature, vomiting, seizures or even coma. If any of these symptoms are present, call your vet immediately. Emergency intervention may be required.

At the Vet’s

Your vet will observe the symptoms and decide on a course of treatment. While there is no way to reverse the effects of what your pet has consumed, they will want to hydrate the body as much as possible. They might try to induce vomiting to stop more marijuana being absorbed. Often, they may administer activated charcoal to absorb and neutralise the contents of the stomach.

All in all, the responsibility for your pet’s health rests squarely on your shoulders. In places where marijuana is still illegal, don’t be afraid to be honest with your vet and tell them if your pet has consumed it. Remember, your vet’s priority is your pet’s health and they are very unlikely to report you to the authorities.

Best Practices

The safest thing to do if you do have marijuana or its derivative products in your home is to store it safely, much the same as you would do with any medical products. Just like you’ll keep medicines away from children, for obvious reasons, you should take extra care with marijuana.

Also, avoid exposing your cat to second hand smoke – it can have the same effect as eating the plants. Remember, cats love to nibble at plants, so take appropriate care. They are also very good climbers, so store your stash in a locked cupboard or drawer. Pets are notoriously clever at opening fridge doors, so remember that!

If you live in shared housing, say with roommates or family, talk to them about the things to look out for in your pet. Provide your vet’s contacts in case something happens when you’re not around. Awareness could save your pet’s life.

End Note

But all is not gloom and doom. Scientists have found that small doses of medical cannabidiol (CBD), one of the products derived from marijuana, may have positive effects on some conditions. These include chronic pain, anxiety and appetite loss. Products which do not have THC can have therapeutic effects, but should only be administered under a vet’s advice and supervision.

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