Getting high has taken on an all new meaning in Colorado, whose natural geography is right up there, too. It’s not just the state’s residents who are feeling the effects of marijuana, since it has been decriminalized there, but the dogs are, too.
“Since legalization in Colorado, cases of animals exposed to marijuana toxicity have quadrupled,” said Dr. Justine Lee, a Minnesota-based emergency critical-care veterinary specialist and toxicologist. Her remarks are included in a presentation, “Pot is Not for Pets,” Saturday at the American Veterinary Medical Association Convention in Denver.
“Pets, especially dogs, like to gorge, and they are finding their owners’ stashes, marijuana-laced brownies or infused butters,” said Dr. Lee, CEO and founder of VetGirl, a subscription-based podcast and webinar service for veterinary continuing education. “Infused butter is especially dangerous. As marijuana is fat soluble and enters the body more quickly, we see more severe poisoning with this type,” she adds. Smoke inhalation also poses toxicity risk, but far less than does ingestion.
Signs of pets poisoned by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the toxic ingredient in marijuana, she says, are urinary incontinence, “drunk walking,” dilated pupils or even a severe coma, all of which can manifest themselves in 15 minutes to 12 hours, but typically one to two hours. The quicker an owner gets his/her affected pet to a veterinarian, the better the chance for quick and complete recovery.
“It’s very dangerous to think that the signs produced by marijuana toxicity will pass on their own at home,” said Dr. Lee, “and owners should never induce vomiting without consulting a veterinarian, an emergency veterinarian or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.”
If appropriate, veterinarians can effectively induce vomiting, provided the pet isn’t too symptomatic. If a pet is distressed and at risk, however, its stomach must be pumped (i.e., gastric lavage under general anesthesia), followed by administration of activated charcoal, IV fluids, monitoring of vital signs and a subsequent hospital stay.
Depending on the case, a $200-plus ounce of pot can easily create a $1,500 veterinarian bill and a very sick dog.