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Marijuana And Cats – Do’s And Don’ts
A common worry we hear from our patients is what happens if their pet eats some of their medication. They want to be sure their pet won’t be harmed. Those with older pets might ask whether it could help with their pain just like marijuana does with humans.
The research on the effects of marijuana and pets is sparse but there are a few studies out there. In this piece, we’re going to focus on the research for cats.
Medical Marijuana for Painful Conditions
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) publishes several articles about marijuana treatments and drug monitoring programs for animals. In 2017, AVMA House of Delegates members urged the Association to develop policies and guidance around marijuana treatments at the Veterinary Information Forum. One of the topics discussed included the increase of toxicity cases. Delegates like Dr. Dick Sullivan encouraged more research to be performed and for the national association to write to or petition the FDA in order to address marijuana issues to clients.
One article published in June 2013 tackled veterinary marijuana and pet owners who are looking to legalize marijuana for painful symptoms of the disease. The article quoted a woman who owned a 12-year-old labrador-retriever type of dog which had a tumor of the spleen metastasized to his liver and lungs. Unfortunately, the dog had been given two months to live, and the tramadol given for the pain was not doing the job. Of course, the poor dog was obviously in pain and completely inactive.
Because California legalized marijuana for humans, the dog’s owner was able to buy a glycerin tincture of marijuana that’s sold as a pet medicine in licensed medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Los Angeles. The dog’s improvement in activity and the easing of pain was such that the pet owner recommended the drug to other dog owners.
How to Help a Cat Who Ate Marijuana
Call your veterinarian immediately if your cat ate marijuana, you suspect your cat ate marijuana or your cat is exhibiting the above signs. If your vet isn’t available, call the Pet Poison Helpline. When it comes to marijuana intoxication, it’s best to take action quickly as a vet can safely remove the drug from your cat’s stomach before it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. Furthermore, it can take days for marijuana to exit your cat’s system, during which they may likely need veterinary support — high doses of THC products, in particular, can be lethal for some cats. Your vet can diagnose marijuana toxicity by examining your cat, running laboratory tests and learning more about your cat’s situation from you.
Can Dogs and Cats Get High?
Yes; however, the changes dogs and cats experience while under marijuana’s influence may not be pleasant or comfortable for them. When dogs and cats are exposed to marijuana (e.g. inhaling smoke, eating the dried plant, drinking oil/liquid form, eating food/edibles that contain THC), they can experience symptoms of marijuana toxicity. Disorientation, incoordination or trouble walking, memory trouble, and increased sleepiness are common. Exposure to high amounts can lead to abnormal heart rate, uncontrolled urination, trouble keeping a normal body temperature, throwing up, drooling, increased barking or making noise, and increased light, sound, and touch sensitivity. These symptoms can be severe enough to require veterinary care, including hospitalization, treatment to decrease marijuana absorption, and medications to control the symptoms.
Prepare for Accidents
If you keep marijuana in your home, take preventive measures to keep your cat out of it. Cats are curious by nature and can often access high counters and cabinets with ease. Make sure that you lock up your marijuana and keep your cat in another, well-ventilated area when you’re smoking.
Is your cat otherwise protected? No matter how careful we are, our cats are clever and can get into things, and accidents can happen. If you don’t already, we encourage you to sign your cat up for a pet insurance plan that can reimburse you for accident-related veterinarian bills.
Spot Pet Insurance coverage gives you peace of mind knowing that when the worst happens, we’ve got you covered.
Common Symptoms a Cat Consumed Marijuana
The effects of marijuana consumption in cats will likely take around 30 minutes to an hour to show up. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to diagnose marijuana consumption in cats than humans. Humans can be reliably tested for marijuana through urine drug-screening tests, but pet urine drug-screening tests are not yet dependable. A veterinarian will need to work with the information you provide and look for clinical signs of marijuana consumption in cats to determine if your cat did consume marijuana.
Common clinical symptoms of marijuana consumption in cats:
- Wobbliness or lack of coordination
- Sudden hyperactivity
- Dilated pupils
- Sudden vocalness (excessive meowing or howling)
- Lowered heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Slowed breathing
- Incontinence (lack of bladder control)
These symptoms can be very uncomfortable for your cat. If you notice any of these signs and suspect marijuana consumption, contact your veterinarian or poison control helpline for your next steps. (2)
Marijuana Intoxication in Cats
While marijuana intoxication most frequently affects dogs (one study found that only 3 percent of marijuana toxicity cases were cats, while 96 percent were dogs), cats can also suffer ill effects from ingestion of THC. This isn’t typically the result of the cat smoking marijuana directly, but through the indirect inhalation of marijuana smoke or the oral ingestion of marijuana flower or infused edibles.
The effects experienced will depend on the kind of cannabis consumed. A cat eating a pot plant will likely show the least signs of THC intoxication because the plant material is not decarboxylated (a process through which curing or heating activates the THC and other cannabinoids). Consuming dried marijuana flower is likely to create greater effects. Meanwhile, the greatest risk of danger with cats and marijuana comes when they ingest concentrates – most commonly THC-infused coconut oil or cannabutter, as those are the most appealing to a cat. These substances can have potent amounts of THC that can be dangerous to animals.
For a cat, marijuana intoxication comes on much as it does in a human, with dilated pupils and a loss of coordination being the obvious visible signs. The danger lies in the invisible effects of THC toxicity: a heart rate that becomes dangerously slow and a drop in body temperature and rate of respiration. This danger is much greater for cats and small dogs than it is for larger dogs. Symptoms can start in as little as a half hour and can last for several hours or even days.
Signs of marijuana toxicity in cats include:
- Lack of coordination
- Depression/apathy that may alternate with agitation/anxiety
- Slow heart rate
- Lower body temperature
If a cat eats marijuana or has become intoxicated through inhalation of the smoke (directly or indirectly), it should receive immediate veterinary care. Although there’s no way to reverse marijuana ingestion, a veterinarian may administer activated charcoal to help absorb any THC remaining in the stomach. The cat will also be confined to prevent them from falling and hurting themselves and receive fluids to keep them hydrated. The only way for a pet to recover from marijuana toxicity is to sleep it off, but a vet will be able to monitor them for any dangerous reactions during this time period.
Due to marijuana prohibition in many places, some pet owners are hesitant to seek medical care for a cat or other animal that has ingested marijuana. Many veterinarians stress that their priority is not to report pet owners to the police but to provide the best possible care to the animal in distress.
When it comes to marijuana, a high cat is no joking matter. Symptoms of THC toxicity require immediate medical attention.
My Dog or Cat Ate Weed or an Edible – Now What?
Call your veterinarian right away if you think or know your pet was exposed to marijuana. The vet will likely want to examine your pet. They will want to know how much marijuana your pet was exposed to and what kind (e.g. smoke, dried leaves, edible, etc.) to best help with treatment. This type of discussion may be uncomfortable, but it is important to remember that your vet wants what is best for your pet and wants to help them get well. Luckily, with proper treatment and time, most pets recover quickly and experience no long-term effects.