Monday, March 27, 2023 by Zoey Sky
Marijuana is widely available in New York City, especially after the city legalized adult recreational use of the drug in 2021. The city also opened the first legal dispensary in December.
While this is good news for marijuana users, veterinarians have warned that they are noticing a steady increase in the number of cases of dogs accidentally ingesting cannabis.
Pet owners have also lamented that their dogs are running into more discarded cannabis on streets and sidewalks.
Last February, Lola Star’s dog Dazzle accidentally ate a joint she found on the ground in Staten Island. Dazzle is a mini Goldendoodle who is almost two years old.
Star said this isn’t the first time that this has happened to her poor dog. While Star didn’t witness the incident herself, she was aware of a telltale sign of drug exposure.
As Star was taking Dazzle out of her car, she noticed her dog’s head bobble. Star, who lives in the Prospect Park South neighborhood of Brooklyn, explained that this was how she could tell her dog was stoned.
Veterinarians, who used to treat similar cases only once a month, now say that they see several cases in a week.
While most dogs recover, the following symptoms can be scary for pet owners:
Not all owners see right away when their dogs eat discarded bits and pieces of a joint while on a walk. And while experienced dog owners know how to steer nosy pets away from trash lying on the street, food and other dangers, marijuana is a new risk that’s suddenly everywhere, warned Star.
And if you don’t know what to watch out for, your dog can get sick every time they accidentally eat weed.
Dr. Gabrielle Fadl, director of primary care at Bond Vet, which has offices throughout the East Coast, hypothesized that the rise in causes could be linked to the recent legalization of marijuana in New York.
While there are no precise figures about the number of dogs finding marijuana on the street, data revealed that they are getting sick from weed more often in places where recreational use is legal. (Related: Popular flea collar linked to thousands of pet deaths, reveals new report.)
For the last six years, there has been an alarming 400 percent increase in calls about marijuana poisoning to the Pet Poison Helpline, a 24-hour animal poison control center. Most of the calls are from New York and California.
In 2022, the Animal Poison Control hotline of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) received at least 7,000 calls for marijuana toxicity – an 11 percent increase compared to the previous year.
Remember that medicines meant for humans can kill your pet. Back in 2010, the ASPCA listed human drugs in the top 10 pet toxins.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen are the most common drugs that have poisoned pets. Other human drugs like acetaminophen, antidepressants, decongestants and muscle relaxants can also harm your pets.
If you suspect your pet has consumed your marijuana, other medication, or anything toxic, call your veterinarian immediately.
Be vigilant when taking your furry best friend out on a walk.
If you think your dog has been exposed to discarded weed, follow the tips below:
Call a veterinarian or poison helpline
Veterinarians have reported that they treated pets who have consumed marijuana in different forms, from discarded joints, flowers, edibles and vape cartridges.
To protect your dogs from these harmful objects, try to train your dog to ignore these items.
If your dog finds marijuana on the street, call a poison helpline or call your veterinarian’s office. Keep in mind that the helplines charge between $85 and $95 for each consultation.
Let the helpline know what happened, especially if the cannabis belongs to you. The details, such as the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) strength, could be helpful when diagnosing what to do with your pet.
Dr. Sarah Hoggan of VCA California Veterinary Specialists said that while it is normal to feel afraid or even embarrassed during a call, you must spare no details to help save your pet.
Learn how to recognize symptoms of exposure
Dr. Ryan Fortier, the medical director at All Ears in Downtown Brooklyn, said that there is no clear test made to confirm whether dogs are intoxicated. But he added that there are some clear signs to watch out for.
Fadl said the behavior of a dog that has ingested cannabis can be “pretty alarming.”
She explained that most intoxicated pets will seem a “bit wobbly” and has difficulty balancing and walking. Most pets will also be very sleepy and dribble urine.
Hoggan advised pet owners to check their dog’s eyes, which could probably be dilated. Your dog might also be scared or startled when touched.
Within an hour or two after ingestion, a dog’s vital signs, like their body temperature and heart rate, will usually plummet. This can be dangerous, warned Fadl.
Veterinarians advised that timing is key if you suspect that your pet has eaten marijuana.
The sooner you take your pet to its veterinarian, the greater the chance of successfully removing the toxin it has been exposed to through methods such as inducing vomiting or administering an enema.
Stay calm: Most dogs recover
The risks depend on how big or small your dog is and the amount of the drug it has found and eaten. Fadl said that treatment for most cases usually includes intravenous fluids, with vets carefully monitoring their vital signs.
Fortunately, dogs that ingest marijuana will recover with proper treatment. Some pets even recover without treatment, added Fadl.
Keep in mind that with particularly large doses of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, there can be risks of heart arrhythmia or seizures with small dogs that consume food or candy infused with it.
Hoggan added that pet owners dealing with dogs that consumed THC should monitor them closely. Keep your dog warm and place them away from other pets, if you have any.
According to Hoggan, there is a “low probability” of lasting neurological damage in exposed pets.
Kimberlee Cruz, a dog trainer who is also a vet assistant at the Veterinary Care Group in Brooklyn, said reinforcing the “leave it” and “drop it” commands could prove helpful if you have a pet that tends to scavenge streets or gets into the trash.
If your dog likes eating things off the ground, you might want to use a short leash. If you use marijuana at home, you should keep any marijuana products out of the reach of your pets.
Be vigilant when walking with your dog and train them to avoid or ignore dangerous objects they may find on the street.
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