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Trupanion: Spotting marijuana toxicity in pets

A while back I got a press release from the folks at Trupanion, a Seattle-based pet insurance company, about marijuana toxicity and pets.

I have two cats myself and have been wondering not just about toxicity but also whether there are any benefits (such as CBD pain relief for older arthritic animals) in giving animals some sort of measured-dose edible version of the plant.

I asked the company if they could give us a few guest posts about animals and cannabis – and any tips about whether it would help or hurt dogs and cats – and they kindly asked Denise Petryk, a veterinarian, to put something together for us.

(A veterinarian works with pets in this Wikimedia Commons image)
(A veterinarian works with pets in this Wikimedia Commons image)

The first post looks at how to spot marijuana toxicity in pets. The second, coming soon, will look at possible benefits of the non-THC components of cannabis for animals.

-SueVo (

What You Need to Know – Marijuana Toxicity in Pets

By Denise Petryk
DVM, MBA on behalf of Trupanion

(Denise Petryk)
(Denise Petryk)

With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington, one thing many people forget is that increased access to marijuana for humans can also lead to increased access for their pets.

As a veterinarian I’ve seen many pets that have become intoxicated after gaining access to their owner’s supply of marijuana or THC laced edibles.

I am certainly not the only one who has noticed the trend; Trupanion, a company that offers medical insurance for cats and dogs, has seen marijuana toxicity claims increase as well. In the first two months of 2015 alone, the company received twice as many claims as the entirety of 2013.

Washington and Colorado have seen the largest claim increase per capita since 2014. Other states where Trupanion has paid a high amount in claims over the last year are California, New York and Florida. Given this uptick in toxicity claims, it’s important to educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of marijuana toxicity.

Delta-9-THC, a prominent cannabinoid in marijuana that is responsible for some of the psychogenic effects, is potentially the most toxic to pets.

Depending on the amount, strain, and form of exposure to marijuana, it can take up to several hours for clinical signs to become evident.

Some of the most common signs of marijuana toxicity include impaired coordination, excessive urination or loss of control of urination (incontinence), drooling, vomiting, lethargy, dilated pupils, tremors, light and sound sensitivity, or in more severe cases, even seizures.

Some newer strains of marijuana have a greater concentration of THC than traditional “pot.”

When a pet gains access to these newer strains, the toxicity symptoms can be more dramatic or severe. Instead of becoming lethargic, your pet may become hyperactive and agitated. Their heart rate may increase, their body can become overheated, and in the most severe cases they can slip into a life-threatening coma.

Some pets may recover from marijuana toxicity with no long-term effects, but it is very important to take them to the veterinarian as soon as you become suspicious they have been exposed.

By getting your pet to a veterinarian soon after consumption, they may be able to induce vomiting or use activated charcoal or utilize other detoxifying treatments.

Once symptoms have taken effect, diagnostic testing or other supportive measures might be most appropriate to help ensure a full recovery. Taking your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible is the safest way to ensure your pet recovers.

An average bill for this kind of treatment can range from $200 up to $3,000 or more.

Investing in pet medical insurance, such as Trupanion, can alleviate that unplanned financial stress, and allow you to focus on your pet’s wellbeing. Take the necessary steps to keep you four-legged friend safe from harm and familiarize yourself with signs of marijuana toxicity.

For more information about Trupanion, visit: