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THC Toxicity in Pets

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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.

Learn the Lingo

Terms like marijuana and THC can be confusing. Here's what they mean and how they differ from one another.

  • Cannabis – This is a family or genus of plants that includes both marijuana and hemp plants. Cannabis plants contain more than 80 biologically active chemical compounds.+
  • Marijuana – Marijuana is a type of cannabis plant that contains many compounds, including THC and CBD. It's known for having high amounts of THC.
  • Hemp – Hemp is considered a low THC cannabis plant, which has high amounts of CBD. The stalks of the hemp plant can be used to make products, such as fabric, rope, and paper. The seeds can be pressed to create hemp oil, which is not the same as CBD oil.
  • THC – THC is the abbreviation for Tetrahydrocannabinol. It's one of over 100 different compounds called cannabinoids found in cannabis. THC causes the "high" feeling associated with marijuana.
  • CBD – CBD stands for cannabidiol. It's a single compound derived from a cannabis plant. There are lots of CBD oil products on the market these days, from pet chews to liquid drops.

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Health Benefit Claims

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.


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