Medical Cannabis and Its Impact on Pets

By on
Medical Cannabis and Its Impact on Pets

Before we discuss the topic of medical marijuana, hemp and their use in pets, we should review current laws and regulations concerning these products. The use of marijuana – medically or recreationally – is illegal at the federal level in the United States. Hemp, by contrast, is legal because it is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Since the medicinal use of cannabinoids (cannabis) – which includes hemp and marijuana – has been documented, 37 states have enacted laws for human use according to However, this is where it becomes confusing:

  • An enacted law does not mean that it has become operational yet – meaning the programs are not up and running.
  • The qualifying, diagnosed medical conditions vary by state.
  • The number of plants and/or the amount someone can carry in their home also varies.
  • The type of medical cannabis used can vary. In the state of Iowa, people with certain medical conditions can have cannabidiol oil, which is low in THC, the component that causes a person to become “stoned” or “high”.
  • The amount and/or type of approved pesticides used varies by state.
  • The amount and/or type of approved fungicides used varies by state.

Let’s put this into context. Currently, the state of California does not regulate any pesticides, fungicides, chemicals, foreign material, heavy metals, or microbiological impurities (mold, bacteria) in medical or recreational cannabis. But, regulation is slated to start in 2018.

One investigative report found that 41 out of 44 samples tested contained 16 pesticides at levels so high that the marijuana probably would have been banned in states with these regulations.

Another worry is mold. University of California at Davis researchers found the levels of mold or bacteria on samples of concern. If people with immunocompromised systems inhale cannabis to alleviate their symptoms, they could be more susceptible to respiratory and pulmonary infections because their bodies cannot effectively fight the fungus or bacteria.

This issue does not mean that medical use of cannabis should be restricted, but serves as an example of why regulation is needed.

How does this impact companion pets? Several cannabis products on the market are grown with high cannabidiol/low THC specifically intended for pets. Many animal companion parents believe that their pets have benefitted greatly from the use of these products to help with anxiety, arthritis, seizures, cancer and other conditions. While veterinarians cannot prescribe medical cannabis, they may also have seen the benefits from pets taking these products; so please consult with your veterinarian as well.  

Of current concern as states are beginning to regulate pesticides, fungus and fungicides in cannabis, will pet cannabis products be subject to the same standards? If it is ALL commercially sold cannabis products, then the answer is Yes. If the regulation only extends to products grown for human consumption, then the answer is No.

This is the point at which you need to be an advocate for your pet. Ask the manufacturers to verify that the product is in fact low in THC, as pets also can have adverse reactions. Ask the growers and manufacturers about independent laboratory tests that include heavy metal, mold and bacterial testing. Additionally, find out the type and amount of pesticides and fungicides. They should at least meet a minimum state regulation (i.e. Colorado is a good place to start) for human consumption until parallel standards can be set for pets.

Remember, this article is not about the benefits of cannabis (high in cannabidiol/low in THC) for pets with certain medical conditions. It is about accountability from the manufacturers and farmers regarding sourcing, processing and chemicals. Many readers of this article rightly hold pet food manufacturers to these standards, so they should do the same with all suppliers.    

A note of caution: cannabinoid toxicosis in dogs has been reported. This is highly correlated with the increase of medical marijuana licenses and use. If death occurs in pets, it is usually from ingestion. So, please either inhale your product in a highly ventilated area, and keep your supply – baked or bagged – out of reach of your pets.

W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843



Buck, Claudia. “Is Your Medical Marijuana Safe? UC Davis Doctors Say Dangerous Bacteria, Fungi Can Lurk in Pot.” The Sacramento Bee. N.p., 07 Feb. 2017. Web. 11 June 2017.

Chea, Terence. “Pot for Pets: Owners Treat Sick Animals with Cannabis.” STAT. Associated Press, 08 Mar. 2017. Web. 11 June 2017.

Grover, Joel, and Matthew Glasser. “Pesticides and Pot: What’s California Smoking?” NBC Southern California. N.p., 23 Feb. 2017. Web. 11 June 2017.

“Medical Marijuana.” The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2017.

Meola, Stacy D. “Evaluation of Trends in Marijuana Toxicosis in Dogs Living in a State
with Legalized Medical Marijuana: 125 Dogs (2005–2010).”  Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. Wiley Online Library.,06 Dec. 2012. Web. 11 June 2017.

Share this message: