What Dog Parents Need to Know About CBD and THC

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A hazy storm is rolling across the country. Ten states, along with Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana for adults 21 and over. Medical marijuana is legal in 33 additional states. As more and more people are able to legally access marijuana, there is an increased interest in how the substance can affect dogs.

Always be aware of your own limits with any substance so you can remain a responsible dog owner and ensure your pup is properly cared for.

Cannabis/Marijuana on Desk
Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs

Both humans and dogs have cannabinoid receptors which allow us to feel the effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Dogs have more cannabinoid receptors than humans and the effects of marijuana are felt more intensely. Pets also metabolize cannabinoids more slowly and experience a longer lasting “high” after ingesting THC. Therefore, ingestion of marijuana can potentially be poisonous for pets.

Marijuana and hemp are two variations of the cannabis plant. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. For humans, THC provides several medicinal and recreational effects including relaxation, euphoria, acts as a sleep aid, and a muscle relaxant among others. However, it may also produce unwanted side effects including anxiety, a lack of motivation, and time distortion.

On the other hand, CBD does not provide psychoactive effects and can be found in high concentrations in hemp. While research is still on-going, CBD has been shown to provide pain relief, reduce anxiety and depression, and lessen symptoms caused by cancer or cancer treatments, without the psychoactive properties of THC.

For more information on the psychoactive effects of marijuana and CBD in dogs, please visit petmd.com.


Edibles pose a significant risk to your pup. Many edibles consist of highly concentrated forms of THC and are typically made with infused butter or oil, which can increase the risk of pancreatitis for your pup. Your dog is particularly at risk if they consume an edible made with chocolate. Chocolate naturally contains theobromine, which can be toxic for dogs.

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What about second-hand smoke?

Second-hand smoke can potentially harm your pup. It is possible that your dog could get a “contact high,” particularly if you, or another person, are smoking marijuana around your dog in a confined area. It is important to note that a dog’s lungs are especially sensitive, making smoking around your pup life-threatening if he or she suffers with a respiratory illness.

If you decide to smoke around your dog, it is best to choose a ventilated area to lessen the chances of your pup experiencing any unwanted side-effects.

Take Precautions

Always make sure to keep an eye on your dog if you are consuming or inhaling marijuana around him or her. Keep marijuana in closed containers and never leave edibles or any form of marijuana within their reach. Never blow smoke directly into their face. Although fatalities in dogs from marijuana are rare, dogs who ingest edibles or smaller dogs who ingest large amounts of the substance are at a greater risk.

Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your dog may have ingested or been exposed to marijuana, especially if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • off-balance
  • low heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • dilated pupils
  • incontinence
  • startles easily

The effects of marijuana can be compared to the effects of your dog ingesting significant amounts of chocolate. If you believe your dog has consumed marijuana, do not hesitate to take them to your local veterinarian.

The CBD Alternative

Unlike marijuana, hemp-based CBD products are not psychoactive and many are becoming increasingly aware of its therapeutic benefits. While cannabis is regulated, hemp-based CBD products are not regulated by the FDA and remain legal in all 50 states. Hemp-based CBD tinctures, capsules, and treats are recommended by leading brands such as Holistapet, Pet Releaf, and Canna-Pet to treat ailments ranging from epilepsy to anxiety.

Despite the industry’s CBD craze, FDA spokesperson Lindsay Haake recently shared, “The FDA is currently collecting information about marijuana and marijuana-derived products being marketed for animals. FDA reminds consumers that these products have not been evaluated by FDA for safety and effectiveness, and we recommend that you talk with your veterinarian about appropriate treatment options for your pet.”

If you begin administering CBD products to your pup, look for any signs of improvement as well as negative side effects such as dry mouth, tremors, or lightheadedness. As always, make sure to keep your veterinarian updated on your pet’s health and what they are consuming. 

If you suspect your dog may have ingested or been exposed to marijuana, seek out information from the ASPCA or contact the Pet Poison Hotline.

What is your opinion on CBD products for dogs? Have you tried CBD products for your dog? Let us know in the comments below!

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