Home » Pet Health » Toxins and Your Pet » Cannabis Intoxication in Pets


Cannabis is a flowering plant indigenous to Asia, and you may have heard it referred to as marijuana, grass, weed, hemp, hash, and pot. Human consumption of dried cannabis buds or leaves and oils derived from the plant is done orally or by inhaling its smoke. Historically, people used it for medicinal purposes, but individuals now consume it recreationally, especially since the legalization of its use in various countries across the world. 

What are the active components of cannabis?

The cannabis plant contains a group of substances called cannabinoids. The most widely studied cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis, which, upon absorption into the bloodstream, reaches the brain and binds to the cannabinoid receptors, causing euphoria, enhanced sensory perception, increased heart rate, difficulties in concentration, and memory impairment. CBD makes up almost 40% of the cannabis extract, is known to affect cognition and motor activities, and is emerging as a promising treatment for pain. Reports show that cannabis can also help cancer patients manage the side effects of cancer chemotherapy. 

How does cannabis smoke compare to tobacco smoke?

The chemical composition of cannabis smoke is like tobacco smoke in that it contains many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens. As with tobacco, repeated inhalation of cannabis smoke harms the lungs and increases the risk of lower respiratory tract conditions, including cancer. It also suppresses the immune system, increasing the risk of developing opportunistic infections. Because studies have shown that a depressed immune system increases cancer risk, preventing immune suppression by cannabis ingestion is vital.

What should I do if my pet ingests cannabis?

The body’s first line of defense is to remove the poisons from the body. Individuals can excrete most cannabis by-products in the feces, but if your dog has cannabis intoxication, your vet may induce vomiting to prevent further absorption of the toxins. In life-threatening situations, the vet may pump your dog’s stomach to remove the contents and administer activated charcoal to neutralize the harmful substances.

What are the effects of cannabis and its products on pets?

Pets become exposed to cannabis by inhaling second-hand smoke, eating edibles like baked goods or candies, or ingesting cannabis directly. Numerous studies have confirmed that dogs are more sensitive than humans to the harmful effects of cannabis because they have a more significant number of cannabinoid receptors in their brains. Therefore, even a small quantity of cannabis may be toxic. Studies show that 99% of canine patients show signs of a neurological disorder, while 30% have symptoms associated with the digestive tract. Affected dogs may exhibit a change in their heart rate, uncoordinated movement, dilated pupils, increased drooling, vomiting, and, in some cases, hyperactivity. In severe cases, dogs may have a seizure or end up in a coma.

In contrast to dogs, information about cannabis intoxication in cats is sparse. Few studies have reported clinical findings that were like cannabis intoxication in dogs. 

There is currently very little evidence available on cannabis exposure and cancer development in pets. However, given the risks involved with smoke exposure and the other effects of cannabis ingestion on your pet’s health, you must take the necessary steps to protect your pet from cannabis toxicity.

How can I prevent cannabis toxicity in my pet?

There are measures you can take to prevent your pet from cannabis poisoning. The following suggestions may help keep your pet healthy and free from the harmful effects of cannabis:

    • Store cannabis and its products in locked drawers or cabinets. 
    • Ensure your pet is in a separate, highly ventilated room while you are smoking to prevent exposure to second-hand cannabis smoke.
    • Keep an eye on your pet when they are outside. People can discard cannabis remnants in parks, streets, and other areas where you may take your pet. 
    • If your pet shows signs of cannabis poisoning, take them to the nearest emergency vet hospital for treatment.

With the recent legalization of cannabis worldwide, your pet is more likely to be exposed to it. Taking the suggested precautions and regularly monitoring your pet is a great way to keep them safe from the toxic effects of cannabis. And if your pet ingests cannabis, your vet can help them quickly recover.

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Last Updated: August 11, 2022

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