Human Indulgences - Yay or Nay for Cats & Dogs? [Vet-Approved]

A dog surrounded by representations of human indulgences like weed and candy

People have access to a lot of life's pleasures and tasty indulgences. But are those indulgences okay to share with our pets?

If you’ve ever wondered about candy for dogs, fried food for dogs, weed for dogs, weed for cats, the effects of tobacco smoke on pets, and more, the Sploot veterinary team is here to shed light on the impact of certain human indulgences on pets. 

What’s in This Guide?

1. Weed for Dogs & Cats - a No & a Maybe

As marijuana is increasingly legalized across the US, more and more households with pets are exposed. So what does that mean for cats and dogs — no big deal, something to be worried about, or a HUGE problem?

A. Marijuana for Dogs & Cats - Definite NO

All parts of the marijuana plant are poisonous to dogs and cats because of the plant’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Marijuana products (e.g. dried, edibles, concentrates, tinctures, transdermals) contain even higher levels of (THC) than an unprocessed plant, making marijuana products an even greater potential threat to pets. 

According to a recent study on marijuana poisoning in pets, most cases are linked to the oral ingestion of edibles, dried marijuana plant parts, and discarded joint butts. Therefore, both marijuana products and discarded parts of marijuana products need to be kept away from pets.  

For both cats and dogs, signs of weed or marijuana ingestion include the following: 

  • Agitation
  • Uncharacteristic hyperactivity
  • Uncharacteristic lethargy or inactivity
  • Ataxia or loss of control over bodily movements (e.g. stumbling, uncoordinated movements)
  • Increased vocalization (e.g. whining, meowing)
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Disorientation (e.g. looking confused, acting lost amidst familiar surroundings)

Though marijuana can be toxic to both cats and dogs, marijuana toxicity is more common in dogs. Marijuana poisoning in dogs involves the following additional symptoms: 

  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Comatose

Death from marijuana intoxication is generally rare for both cats and dogs. However, compounding factors (e.g. environmental hazards, underlying health conditions) can make marijuana intoxication more dangerous, so it’s important to be mindful of marijuana exposure. 

Note: If you suspect that your dog or cat has ingested marijuana, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

B. Marijuana Smoke for Dogs and Cats - a Definite NO

Ingestion of weed products is not the only risk for your feline or canine companions. When pets inhale THC from the smoke of a joint, they can suffer the same symptoms as the ones we talked about in the previous section. 

Note: Consult your vet if you think your pet is exhibiting symptoms related to marijuana inhalation.

C. Hemp-Derived CBD for Pets - Maybe

Hemp is a cannabis plant that contains 0.3 percent THC or less. Hemp is known for having cannabidiol (CBD), which does not have the mind-altering characteristcs of THC. Special CBD products are sometimes used by some pet parents to try alleviate various health issues in pets — such as anxiety, pain, and inflammation. However, the safety and effectiveness of CBD for pets has NOT been extensively studied and is not yet fully understood. 

Note: Consult your veterinarian prior to giving CBD to pets.  

2. Candy for Dogs & Cats - Not Recommended

Who doesn’t love candy? Plenty of people keep them lying around for easy access — whether they have sweet treats on a candy dish or Halloween candy in a basket. 

Pet owners may either be tempted to share some candy with dogs and cats or pets can accidentally ingest some. However, both of these scenarios need to be prevented as much as possible; sweet treats usually contains some or all of the following ingredients that are harmful to dogs and cats: 

  • Chocolate;
  • Refined sugar;
  • Xylitol; and
  • Artificial sweeteners. 

In the following sections, we’ll talk about which of these ingredients are toxic or generally not healthy for pets. 

A. Chocolate - Toxic for Dogs & Cats

It’s widely known that chocolate is toxic for dogs. However, it is equally (if not more so) toxic to cats. ALL forms of chocolate are hazardous to your furry companions. 

Ingestion of chocolate for dogs and cats can cause symptoms such as: 

  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Tremors;
  • Changes to blood pressure and heart rate;
  • Comatose; and
  • Death.
Note: If you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate, call the Pet Poison Helpline or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for immediate assistance over the phone. You may also need to contact an urgent care veterinarian or emergency veterinarian for the next steps regarding your pet’s treatment.

B. Refined Sugar - Generally Not Healthy for Pets

While sugar is not toxic to dogs and cats, processed sugar is a cause of diarrhea, vomiting, and discomfort in some pets. Another important consideration for refined sugar is its habitual consumption. If pets are regularly consuming an inappropriate amount of sugar, it can cause chronic health issues such as weight gain, obesity, high blood sugar, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Note: If you think your pet is suffering from the negative effects of refined sugar, reach out to your local veterinarian. 

This, however, does not mean that all sugar is bad. Naturally-occurring sugar (i.e. fructose and sucrose) are found in fruits and vegetables, respectively. And some specific fruits and veggies are healthy treats for your canine or feline.

→ Learn more: The Safest & Healthiest Fruits Dogs Can Eat

C. Xylitol - Toxic for Dogs & Cats

Xylitol is HIGHLY toxic to dogs. The effect of xylitol on most cats is not as severe but the substance can still be toxic to certain breeds. But whether you have a pet cat or dog, xylitol is not worth the risk. Make sure to keep an eye out for this ingredient, and avoid feeding xylitol-containing products to your pets.  

Xylitol is present in some types of candy and peanut butter. Xylitol is rampantly present in sugar-free gum which is one of the most common sources of xylitol toxicity we’ve seen in Sploot clinics. (As an added note, xylitol is also present in some brands of toothpaste. This is only one of the reasons why human toothpaste should never be used on pets.) 

For dogs, xylitol causes a rapid release of insulin. Large doses of this substance lead to liver failure. Symptoms of xylitol toxicity in dogs include:

  • Vomiting;
  • Loss of coordination; 
  • Seizures; and
  • Death.
Note: If you think your dog or cat has eaten a product containing xylitol, call the Pet Poison Helpline or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for immediate assistance over the phone. In addition, you will likely need to contact an urgent care veterinarian or emergency veterinarian.

D. Artificial Sweeteners - Generally Not Healthy for Pets

Unlike Xylitol, other artificial sweeteners (stevia, aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose) are NOT poisonous to dogs and cats — but they can still cause diarrhea and gastric problems. This is why it’s important for us to be conscious of how much we’re giving to our pets. 

If you’re unsure about how much of an artificial-sweetener-containing product should be fed to your pet, consult with your local veterinarian. 

3. Smoking Around Dogs & Cats - Not Recommended

Secondhand smoke, which is the smoke that is released by a smoker, contains a variety of toxic chemicals that can be harmful to animals.

Breathing in secondhand tobacco smoke over time causes respiratory problems in dogs and cats. These problems include coughing, sneezing, and difficulty in breathing. 

Similar to people, secondhand smoke also increases the risk of developing cancer and other serious health problems in cats and dogs. On the topic of smoking, remember that weed for dogs or weed for cats in the form of smoke causes the same negative consequences as ingested marijuana. 

Note: If you think your dog or cat is suffering from long-term exposure to tobacco smoke, consult with your vet for next steps. 

4. Fried Food (Fries, Fried Chicken) for Pets - Not Recommended

Fried food is an indulgence for many. We’re sure many can relate to this situation: you’ve got your comfort food set up — then your furry friend comes along and meows softly or gives you puppy dog eyes. 

However, fried food such as fried chicken, fried fish, and French fries are high in fat and calories. Therefore, these types of food cause or aggravate health conditions like obesity and weight gain in cats and dogs. Regular consumption of high fat food can also cause feline or canine pancreatitis (the inflammation of the dog’s pancreas.) 

Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include: 

  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Dehydration;
  • Lethargy; and 
  • Loss of appetite. 

Fried foods also contain ingredients such as salt and spices that are harmful to animals if ingested in large quantities. Therefore, refrain from giving fried food to your pet.

Note: If you think your cat or dog is suffering from weight problems and/or a chronic diet-related condition like pancreatitis, consult your vet.

5. Overeating (Or Binging) - Not Recommended for Pets

As humans, we might like to indulge occasionally in a few extra helpings of our favorite comfort food. But is this something we should allow our pets to do?

There are certain cats and dogs that like to eat a lot. However, frequent binging is not recommended for our feline and canine companions. Animals that consume more calories than they need on a regular basis are at risk of developing obesity. Obesity in dogs and cats can then branch out into other health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems.

Hence, It is important to feed cats and dogs a balanced and nutritious diet that is appropriate for their age, breed, and lifestyle. Follow the recommended feeding guidelines provided by your veterinarian.

Note: We recommend that pet parents also be mindful of the treats given to dogs and cats. Treats should comprise only about 10 percent of a pet's total daily intake.

6. Irregular Sleeping - Not Recommended for Dogs & Cats

Whether it’s due to going out on a Friday night or indulging in Netflix binge-watching, staying up every now and then is a fairly common practice. In today’s highly-connected and information-rich world, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule can be challenging. It is, however, worth it — and it’s not just for us but also for our animal companions. 

Domesticated cats and dogs tend to adjust their sleeping patterns to match their owner’s. By establishing a predictable sleeping schedule, pet parents will have better health for themselves whilst also keeping pet sleeping disorders at bay. 

In some cases, however, random changes in a pet’s sleep patterns could be a sign of an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed. Look out for these signs: 

  • Uncharacteristic pacing at night
  • Whining, licking, scratching, and biting accompanied by lack of sleep
  • Uncharacteristic inactivity during the day
Note: If you see concerning disrupted sleep in your pet, consult your local veterinarian immediately. 

7. Alcohol for Dogs & Cats - a Definite No

Alcohol is very harmful to dogs and cats. Even small amounts of alcohol can be toxic to pets and can cause serious health problems. 

Symptoms of alcohol intoxication in pets may include vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, and coordination problems. 

Note: If you see some or all of the above symptoms in your canine or feline companion, call your local vet for next steps, and be prepared to take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. 

Final Thoughts on the Impact of Human Indulgences on Pets

In conclusion, remember to be thoughtful about how human indulgences can impact pets. Weed for dog and weed for cats are definite NO’s. In addition, remember the dangers of refined sugar for pets, the toxicity of xylitol, and the cumulative harm of fried food

If you have further questions or specific concerns, we’re here to help.

Sploot Veterinary Care is your go-to vet clinic for urgent and primary care in multiple convenient locations. Book an appointment easily online or using the Sploot Vets app! We accept same-day appointments and urgent drop-offs during our extended vet clinic hours, 365 days a year.

Till next time, we're with you every pounce of the way!