Marijuana is toxic to dogs, and Colorado veterinarians say the number of pets, usually canines, being treated after consuming pot is on the rise.
Are pets getting into marijuana more frequently, or are pet owners are just less fearful about seeking treatment now pot usage is legal in Colorado for adults?
Mesa Veterinary Clinic in Pueblo estimated that, so far this year, marijuana-related cases are up about 30 percent from past years. Animal Emergency Care Centers in Colorado Springs said it is seeing an increase in pot-related incidents, with 10 to 20 a month.
A study conducted by Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital and the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital found that marijuana toxicity cases quadrupled between 2005 and 2010. Researchers say the increase correlated with the increase in number of registered medical-marijuana users during the same period.
“We’re at the point where we ask owners very specifically and multiple times if we think the dog has gotten into marijuana,” said Natalie Adams, a vet at the Community Pet Hospital of Thornton. Community Pet treats four to six animals a month for marijuana toxicity, up from one case every couple of months, she said.
Adams said cases in which an owner has given a pet weed to get them high just for fun are rare. Instead, pets are victims of poor storage of pot. “Put it away, out of reach,” Adams said. “Once they got into it once, they will be repeat offenders.”
Dogs become agitated after they consume the drug. It affects their coordination and mood, said Jennifer Bolser of The Humane Society of Boulder Valley. It also may cause incontinence and a slower heart rate. If the pet consumes a large amount of pot, the psychoactive chemical, THC, can cause a dog to suffer seizures, go into a coma or die.
“As long as the dog is treated and decontamination occurs, with mild exposures the dog will not have any long-term effects,” Bolser said. Treatment can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands, if the pet requires hospitalization.
This issue has been brought up all over the internet for the last couple months mostly focused on the animal eating the plant rather than inhaling pot smoke, and one lone holistic vet has openly endorsed pot as a treatment for dogs suffering from cancer in an article on Dogster, but there has not been any studies on the practical use of pot for medicinal use in treating sick animals. Not one, but there has been thousands of cases of dogs being treated for pot toxicity in emergency rooms over the last ten years.
“We see dogs 14 to 15 years old pretty crippled up. If people think it helps their own pain, they think it’s an option for their pet,” said Mesa Clinic vet Tiffany Barr.
Even in humans, the practical use of pot as a medical treatment is to dull pain, (not make it go away) and reduce vomiting. It is taken by choice with the person understanding the affect, but a dog does not understand why it is disoriented any more than an unsuspecting child would. Most normal people would find it horrifying to slip some pot to a five year old child, and the fearful, emotional effect it would have. So why would you subject a dog to that? The presumption is made that it will relieve extreme pain suffered by dogs, but we have no way of knowing that without direct communication. And then there is the question of quality of life. If a dog is in so much pain that it needs to be excessively doped up, is that life worth enduring? If the dog is not suffering pain, getting your dog stoned, disoriented, confused, and fearful, amounts to abuse for the sake of a laugh.