Marijuana is a frequently debated subject, with recent votes legalizing recreational marijuana in Alaska and Oregon, and discussions about the growing popularity of Cannabis-infused pet products like Canna-Pet and Canna Companion. For almost every human marketplace there is a pet equivalence – including the marijuana market. As it becomes more of a household topic, many pet owners may be asking, what does this mean for my pet?
With April 20 around the corner (aka “420”), we looked into our database to find how marijuana—intended either for people or for pets—is impacting cats and dogs. In this case, we found that cats aren’t particularly interested in marijuana. Dogs, on the other hand, have rolled in it, ingested it, and are much more likely to grab some special brownies off the countertop.
We found several cases of marijuana toxicity across the country and, not shockingly, saw the most marijuana claims per capita in two states that first legalized recreational marijuana; Washington and Colorado. Those states have three times more marijuana toxicity claims compared to the average in other U.S. states. With relaxed laws around marijuana, humans may be less concerned with leaving it out. Unfortunately this means pets are getting into their owners’ stashes and the results can be harmful.
To date, Trupanion has paid over $78,000 in suspected marijuana claims. In these cases, the veterinarians treating the pet suspected marijuana was involved, however the pet owner may have been hesitant to admit it to their veterinarian. In 2014 alone, Trupanion paid over $20,000 specifically toward confirmed marijuana toxicity cases. These were cases where the pet owner confirmed marijuana was involved with in the medical record.
From claims just under $100, like a mixed breed dog who was given fluids and nausea medication, to claims over $6,000 for a Shetland Sheepdog who ate a tray of “weed brownies” and needed to be hospitalized for seven days, Trupanion has seen marijuana ingestion for dogs of all shapes and sizes. The average marijuana toxicity claim costs about $525 on average to treat.
Trupanion’s on-staff veterinarian, Dr. Denise Petryk, debunks some common myths about marijuana and pets to shed some light on the subject below:
Do dogs get high? Can my dog get a secondhand high?
Dogs can show symptoms of marijuana toxicity within a few minutes of inhaling smoke or a couple hours after ingesting marijuana. They may experience impaired coordination, excessive urination and even loss of control of urination (incontinence), drooling, vomiting, lethargy, depression, dilated pupils, and light and sound sensitivity and in severe cases they may go into seizures or even a coma.
While some people may enjoy the effects of THC, the psychogenic component of marijuana, pets don’t understand it and its effects can be a confusing and stressful experience.
If pets can be prescribed medical marijuana, can I just give them some of my own stash?
Veterinarians do not recommend that you deliberately give your pet marijuana because the effects of THC on your pet can be harmful or unpredictable. Each strain of marijuana includes different compounds with varied psychogenic and medicinal effects. Medical marijuana intended for pet can be different than the marijuana intended for people and you should keep your stash away from your pet.
While some anecdotal cases have shown very positive effects of pet-intended medical marijuana in dogs and cats, the reality is, very few studies have proven a beneficial effect for pets and the risks have not been completely investigated. If you are interested in treating your pet with cannabis products, do so under the supervision of a trusted veterinarian in a controlled environment. Trupanion, a company that offers medical insurance for cats and dogs, will cover medicinal marijuana when specifically recommended by a veterinarian. The company has seen claims for medicinal marijuana primarily alongside cancer treatments.
Can my dog die from eating too much marijuana?
If your pet ingests marijuana, you should take them to the veterinarian for monitoring. While pets typically recover from marijuana intoxication with no long-term effects, complications and an especially potent strain or a large amount of THC can be fatal.
If I know my dog ingested marijuana, should I tell my veterinarian? Will I get in trouble?
Don’t hesitate to tell your veterinarian if they have had access to marijuana—the signs of marijuana intoxication among pets can be indications of far more serious conditions, so being open can help your veterinarian eliminate more serious conditions and prevent testing needed to rule out other causes.
Kathryn works at Trupanion alongside her little sidekick, a rescued Papillion mix named Modie. She loves all animals big and small but is a dog enthusiast at heart. By the third grade, she had memorized every dog breed and their characteristics and dreamed of being an agility dog trainer or the next Steve Irwin. When not at Trupanion, Kathryn spends her time playing soccer, baking cookies, and exploring the Pacific Northwest with her little sidekick.