Many pet owners want to know if their cat will experience any issues when inhaling second-hand pot smoke, eating marijuana brownies, or chewing on the leaves of the plant. While several cat owners out there think marijuana is just another form of catnip, it’s true that there is a drastic difference.
Catnip and Marijuana
Catnip is a plant that comes from the mint family. The perennial herb has downy leaves, purple-spotted white flowers, and a pungent smell that makes cats go crazy when smelled and sleepy when eaten. Marijuana, on the other hand, comes from a plant called Cannabis sativa. The chemical in Cannabis that produces the altered states of consciousness humans enjoy is called Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
Marijuana is sometimes prescribed for relief from pain and nausea due to chemotherapy in cancer patients, and for certain conditions in AIDS patients. However, it’s still questionable whether there is anything beneficial in the plant for feline friends. In fact, it is strongly suggested that cats do not come close to any smoke from marijuana use, or any other smoke from cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.
How Cats Are Exposed to Marijuana
The most common ways cats are exposed to marijuana is by inhaling smoke or ingesting dried marijuana.1 Although people who have experimented with smoking catnip become happy and relaxed, cats should not be forced to “smoke” any substance.
Because of the cumulative effects of inhaling any kind of smoke, it is inadvisable to smoke marijuana anywhere near a cat, particularly one with asthma or other lung diseases. It’s important to be mindful of this, as humans are able to make educated decisions around topics like these, while cats are not.
In some cases, cats may nibble on the leaves and/or buds of the growing marijuana plant. Humans may also feed their cats cookies or brownies made with marijuana. This is a double whammy of injury to the cat, as the brownies and/or cookies may also contain chocolate, which is toxic to cats on its own.
CBD for Cats
This doesn’t mean cats can never have cannabis, though; nor that all components from weed plants are bad for them. As the beneficial effects of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD on the human body and mind, also applies to our fur pals. Again, all thanks to the endocannabinoid-system (ECS). Helping cats battle pain, inflammation or behavioral disorders. One thing to keep in mind is that your cat obviously doesn’t require the same dosage as you, to reach the desired effect.
On the internet, you’ll find different recommendations in terms of the right way to dose CBD in pets. For cats and other small pets, we advise to use our CBD Oil. As this is easier to dose than the 10% CBD Oil we offer on our website. For adult cats, we advise a maximum dosage of 1-2 drops, 2-3 times a day. Kittens obviously don’t need that much and therefore have a maximum of 1-2 drops total a day.
The easiest way to administer CBD to your cat, is by mixing it through their regular food. And considering not all cats need the maximum dosage right away, start with one drop and see where it takes you. You can always give an extra drop, but can never take it back…
What are the signs of cannabis intoxication?
Many of the signs of intoxication are neurological. Pets may become wobbly and uncoordinated. They may be hyperactive, disoriented, and very vocal. Their pupils may dilate, giving them a wild-eyed appearance, and they may drool excessively or vomit. They may also develop urinary incontinence (i.e., urine leakage). In severe cases, tremors, seizures, and coma can result.
“Side effects are usually short-lived, but they can still be dangerous.”
Physical signs include low or elevated heart rate and blood pressure and slowed respiration rate (breathing rate). Lethargy, and increases or decreases in body temperature may also be observed. Fortunately, these side effects are usually short-lived, but they can still be dangerous and make the pet quite miserable.
How is intoxication diagnosed?
Diagnosis is based on an accurate history and clinical signs. Although there are tests to determine the level of THC in the urine, the results take time, making them impractical. Human urine drug-screening tests are quicker but are not dependable in pets. The diagnosis is made much more quickly, and treatment initiated, when responsible pet owners provide accurate information regarding the pet’s exposure.
How is intoxication treated?
When a toxin enters the body, often the first line of defense is to get it out. If the toxicity is discovered shortly after ingestion, your veterinarian may induce vomiting to prevent further absorption of the toxin. Two factors may interfere with this early defensive strategy. First, the signs of toxicity may manifest only after the drug has been absorbed, meaning it is already in the system. Second, cannabis has an anti-emetic effect which inhibits vomiting. In life-threatening cases, the stomach may be pumped (gastric lavage). Activated charcoal may be administered every 6-8 hours to neutralize the toxin. Enemas are also used to reduce toxin absorption from the GI tract.
“Activated charcoal may be administered every 6-8 hours to neutralize the toxin.”
The second line of defense in cannabis toxicity involves providing supportive care until the effects of the drug wear off. Medications and supportive care to regulate the pet’s heart rate, respiration, and body temperature are used if needed. Since the pet may be lethargic, with no desire to eat or drink, IV fluids can help prevent dehydration, support blood pressure, and maintain organ function. Anti-anxiety medications can minimize agitation. To prevent self trauma while the pet is disoriented and uncoordinated, confinement in a safe, comfortable space is helpful. Noise should be kept to a minimum to decrease sensory stimulation.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line, when it comes to cannabis use and pets, is similar to that with other drugs in the home: Be careful. Keep all forms of cannabis, medical or recreational, out of reach of your pet. Consider storage in high cabinets or in locked drawers when not in use. Keep pets in a separate and well-ventilated room, away from second-hand smoke. Remember that pets have a good sense of smell and will be tempted to eat candies, chips, chocolates, and cannabis directly if accessible. If you notice suspicious behavior in your cat or dog and cannabis exposure is a possibility, take your pet to your veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital for treatment.