Calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center about THC exposure jumped up significantly in 2019.* That's not surprising as more states legalize the use of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes. Here's what you need to know about THC toxicity in dogs and cats.
Terms like marijuana and THC can be confusing. Here's what they mean and how they differ from one another.
CBD products make all sorts of health claims, such as reducing anxiety, promoting sleep, and managing pain for pets. Currently, the potential benefits of CBD for pets are not well researched or understood. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that many of these products are being marketed with unproven medical claims and unknown quality.+ They also may carry risks, such as stomach upset or liver damage.
To date, the FDA has approved one cannabis-derived drug product (Epidiolux) as a treatment for seizures related to certain conditions in humans. They have also approved three synthetic cannabis-related drug products to treat nausea associated with chemotherapy and anorexia in AIDS patients.
Much of the research done so far related to pets has been on toxic effects. While there is research taking place into possible medicinal uses for CBD in pets, including epilepsy, osteoarthritis, and chronic pain, it has not been approved by the FDA for any of these uses.
You might not think your pet would eat cannabis, but dogs, in particular, have been known to eat all sorts of strange things from piles of sand at the beach to stinky socks pulled out of the laundry basket. Cats tend to have more discerning palettes than dogs, but our felines love to nibble on plant leaves. This can put them at risk for THC exposure if cannabis plants are grown in the home.
Both dogs and cats may be tempted to eat edibles containing THC. These edibles come in all sorts of forms, including cookies, brownies, gummies, chocolates, and other tasty treats that can be appealing to pets. They may also contain other ingredients that can be harmful, such as chocolate or xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener that is highly toxic to pets.
The THC in marijuana is toxic for pets. So, how does THC affect dogs? What about cats? THC will make your pet feel "high." They may appear dazed, disoriented, and confused. They can have difficulty walking and maintaining their balance. Other symptoms include:
THC exposure can also affect their heart rate and body temperature. In severe cases, it can cause tremors, seizures, and coma. The severity will depend on the amount of THC involved along with factors including the size of your pet.
If you suspect your pet has been exposed to THC, you should contact your veterinarian or call the ASPCA® Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at 888-426-4435 right away. The APCC is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A consultation fee may apply, but a portion of that is covered by our pet insurance. Their experts have access to resources that can help diagnosis the problem and recommend next steps.
To diagnose THC exposure, your veterinarian will need to get an accurate account of what happened. Some pet parents may feel nervous, embarrassed, or even guilty about the situation. But it's important that you share all of the facts with your veterinarian so your pet can get the best care possible. Your veterinarian may also conduct a test that can detect THC in the urine to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for THC exposure is focused on supportive care. For instance, the pet may need fluids to keep them hydrated or medications to regulate their heart rate or body temperature. If they're disoriented and unstable, they may need close supervision to make sure they don't hurt themselves.
Your veterinarian may recommend intravenous lipid infusion therapy, which can help THC pass through your pet's body quicker. Other possible treatments include inducing vomiting, pumping the pet's stomach, or administering activated charcoal, which helps prevent toxins from being absorbed into the body.
These tips can help you keep your pet safe from THC poisoning:
If your pet is exposed to THC, remember not to panic and seek medical help as soon as you can to help your pet recover safely.
* Marijuana Toxicosis in Animals, ASPCApro
+ What You Need to Know (And What We're Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD, U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.