Some veterinarians in Durango have seen a spike in the number of dogs poisoned by marijuana since the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries made the drug more accessible.
“We used to see maybe one case a year,” said Stacee Santi, a veterinarian at Riverview Animal Hospital. “Now we’re seeing a couple a month.”
Dogs can be exposed to marijuana through smoke or eating cannabis-laced foodstuffs.
Recently, a large-breed dog was brought to the hospital stumbling, dribbling urine and exhibiting the classic symptoms of dilated eyes and slow heart beat, Santi said.
“We induced vomiting, and up came a 3-by-3-foot piece of cheesecloth,” Santi said. “The cheesecloth could have been used to strain marijuana butter.”
The butter, once infused with cannabis, can be used to make baked goods such as brownies.
Jennifer Schoedler, a veterinarian at Alpine Animal Hospital, has seen incidents of dogs getting into marijuana since she came to Durango in 1998.
“Dogs love the stuff,” Schoedler said. “I’ve seen them eat the buds, plants, joints and marijuana in food.”
Just as the caffeine and theobromine in chocolate are safe to humans but poisonous to dogs, so is marijuana, Schoedler said. The darker the chocolate, the more pronounced the toxicity can be.
The level of intoxication varies according to the size of the dog and concentration of marijuana, she said. It almost always requires a stay in the hospital, she said.
Eric Barchas, a veterinarian in San Francisco, says on his website that he treats “stoned dogs” on a regular basis.
“Serious, long-term health consequences and fatality from marijuana intoxication are essentially unheard of,” Barchas writes on his site. “However, pets that are exposed to marijuana may display anxiety and are prone to ‘bad trips.’ They may lack the coordination to consume food and water.”
Makenzie Rennick at Durango Animal Hospital said the clinic hasn’t seen any marijuana-ingesting dogs recently but had four or five during the summer.
“We don’t know where they got the marijuana,” Rennick said. “It could have been where they live or someplace else in the neighborhood.”
Other prescription and over-the-counter medications also are a threat to pets. The American Veterinary Medicine Association and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have joined forces to prevent pets from ingesting household medicines and to keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines out of waterways,
The effort aims to educate people about proper storage and disposal of medicines. The animal poison control center of the Association for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals reports that medicine for humans was the leading cause of toxicity in pets in 2010.