Does Methamphetamine Cause Cancer in Cats?

 |  Oct 1st 2009  |   3 Contributions


Hi Dr. Barchas,

Do you have any experience with cats who have been exposed to methamphetamine vapors? We lost our 4 year old cat to lymphoma and I am feeling like the worst cat parent ever...it's no longer an issue, and we are having our 10 year old Maine Coon thoroughly checked out, and have been totally honest with our vet. Bottom line: is this my fault? and what kinds of long term symptoms might we watch for in our Maine Coon?

Name and location withheld

I may have bitten off more than I could chew when I decided to discuss canine marijuana ingestion twice (here and here; you can also check out my website for more information on the subject here) on this blog.

Yesterday I spoke on the phone with a person who tracked me down on the internet. She was interested in using medical marijuana to help with lack of appetite in a dog who was undergoing chemotherapy. The dog had been to a number of specialists and clearly had received the best possible medical and home care. The client was exploring every possible option to promote a high quality of life for the pet. (My answer, in short, was that evidence-based studies on the subject were lacking. However, if adverse side effects could be avoided, the therapy might be beneficial. The legal ramifications of such therapy are uncertain but possibly (although probably not) serious depending upon the jurisdiction. The client elected to experiment cautiously.)

On the same day, I read the question posted above.

I am not a specialist in animal toxicology. This blog is not a clearinghouse for questions about pets and illicit substances.

Nonetheless I feel that rushing to judgment is not in the best interest of the animals involved in these sorts of situations. What follows is my best attempt at an answer. To the questioner:

Methamphetamine vapors almost certainly are harmful to cats. Cats' lungs are exquisitely sensitive. Second-hand cigarette smoke can trigger or exacerbate a number of feline respiratory problems. Although methamphetamine vapors contain less tar than cigarette smoke, it is hard to imagine that second-hand meth is not deleterious.

That said, it also is hard to imagine that your cat's lymphoma was caused by exposure to methamphetamine. Meth has numerous adverse effects on the body. It may well be a carcinogen in cats--this matter has not been well studied. But the carcinogenic effects of any substance of are dose-dependent. Second-hand exposure to methamphetamine vapors will not lead to high levels of exposure.

Bottom line: I doubt that methamphetamine exposure played a role in your cat's illness. It is more likely that a hereditary predisposition to lymphoma was to blame.

I recommend that you monitor your Main Coon's appetite, thirst and weight. Seek veterinary attention if you note any irregularities. I consider it unlikely that he or she will experience adverse effects from exposure to the illicit substance.

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