By Nina Zdinjak
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, reports of marijuana toxicity in dogs have notably increased following widespread marijuana legalization.
The national call volume for cannabis ingestion jumped from 1,436 to 3,923 cases between 2017 and 2020 said Tina Wismer, a veterinarian and senior director of the New York-based ASPCA Poison Control Center, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
It is important to note that these numbers are just a small percentage of the total number of cases due to the reports being voluntary. In California, for example, where adult-use cannabis became legal in 2016, call numbers jumped 276% between 2016 and 2020, and in Colorado, the numbers have grown eleven times since the state legalized cannabis in 2012.
Effects Can Be Critical
The problem is much more serious than it may sound because if a dog ingests THC-infused edible crafted for humans, who weigh several times more than dogs, the effects can be critical. What’s more, some of those treats may also contain other chemicals, not just THC.
And while probably most of the incidents are happening at home with the owner’s stash, the number of dogs getting intoxicated by cannabis outside is definitely growing at a rapid pace.
Karl Jandrey, a professor of veterinary sciences at UC Davis, and Wismer of New York pointed out some of the standard symptoms of cannabis toxicity in dogs: “unsteadiness on their feet, depression, dilated eyes, dribbling urine, sensitivity to touch and sound, slow heart rate and even low body temperature.” These signs tend to occur around 20 to 40 minutes after ingestion.
Wismer also highlighted that if a dog owner suspects marijuana ingestion, they should call their veterinarian immediately.
The Case Of The “Stoned” Chihuahua Terrier
One of the most recent cases involved a 12-pound Chihuahua-terrier mix named Bentley, who for the first time ever turned down French fries offered by his owner.
“He wouldn’t take them, so I knew something was wrong. He was just out of it,” said Dana Long, a resident of Tiburon, per the LA Times.
Realizing that Bentley was not himself, Long quickly took him to the veterinarian where he was told that most likely Bentley had scooped up a chocolate edible from the sidewalk while walking near a neighborhood middle school.
“If you ask any of our emergency room veterinarians, they would all say that the number of cannabis-intoxicated dogs has increased by leaps and bounds since legalization of medical and then recreational marijuana for humans,” Jandrey said.
The Solution? Dog Training
According to Jandrey, “Avoidance is the only prevention.” This means that dog owners should really seriously take dog training, and teach their dogs how to behave both inside and outside the home.