Cannabis and Your Pet

Cannabis is now legal in Canada, but that does NOT mean that it is without risk to you, or to your pet.  Cannabis can be toxic to your pet.  Studies completed decades ago demonstrated that dogs are more sensitive than people to tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), which is the well-known psychoactive compound responsible for the ‘high’ related to cannabis use.

Consumption of cannabis is usually not fatal to pets, but reaction can be severe and life-threatening. Dogs appear to be more likely than cats to consume cannabis products, but cats can also suffer from THC toxicity. Cannabidiol (CBD) is not thought to be toxic. Commercial preparations of CBD may or may not contain significant amounts of THC.

What are the most common signs of cannabis exposure in pets?

  • Sleepiness
  • Depression
  • Wobbling, pacing and agitation
  • Sound or light sensitivity
  • Inappropriate urination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vomiting
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Salivation
  • Fast or slow heart rates
  • Low body temperature
  • Vocalization

Actions pet owners can take to reduce risk to pets from cannabis:

  • Being open and honest with your veterinarians regarding your pets possible exposure to cannabis or CBD supplements.
  • Storing all cannabis products (dried plant material or edible forms) in non-pet accessible places
  • Sweet edible products are especially attractive to dogs. Take precautions that edibles are kept out-of-reach, especially for patrolling or counter-surfing pets.
  • Eliminating your pet’s exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Remember that ‘natural’ does not equal ‘safe’ – Don’t assume cannabis affects humans and animals in the same ways, or that because cannabis is a ‘natural’ substance, it isn’t harmful. Cannabis certainly doesn’t occur naturally in animals or people, and most pets would never encounter cannabis in nature, so their bodies are not prepared to deal with any dangerous aspects of cannabis.

Health benefits:

While it is not hard to find Internet sites recommending or offering to sell you cannabis for your pet, neither the science nor regulatory authorities currently support medical use of cannabis [either in dried flower form or as oil extracts, such as cannabidiol (CBD Oil)] for your pet.  The jury is still out, but some clinical trials are underway to evaluate cannabis products for use as medical treatments in pets.  Although there is anecdotal evidence supporting use of cannabis/CBD for  pain relief, more hard data are needed by regulatory authorities.  At this time, veterinarians do not have regulatory approval to prescribe cannabis or CBD oil for your pet.

Consult with your vet before using cannabis/CBD treatments on your pet – other options with proven effects might be available.

Further reading: