Legalization Of Marijuana Has Unexpected Side Effects For Pets

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
The legalization of marijuana in many states in the U.S. has brought about a side effect many may not have ever considered: the accidental poisoning of our furry best friends.

Dr. Jen Gunter is a gynecologist in Marin County, California. Her three-year-old labrador retriever Hazel is normally an excitable pup who loves to chase balls. When Dr. Gunter returned to her home recently after a grocery trip, she knew immediately that her Hazel was not well.

Dr. Gunter says that Hazel ignored the tennis ball, which was significantly uncharacteristic for her, and then she began shuddering and lost control of her bladder. Gunter thought Hazle was having a stroke, and immediately got her to the emergency vet.

Related: California Vets Want to Prescribe Medical Marijuana to Pets

Upon arrival, Dr. Gunter said the vet nurse knew exactly what was happening and told her that they saw marijuana poisoning all the time. They did a urine toxicology to confirm it, and the nurse was right: THC was in Hazel’s urine. Dr. Gutner believes that Hazel may have ingested a marijuana edible or discarded joint when they’d been on a run earlier in the day.

Wanting to raise awareness to this very significant and new danger, Gunter posted her story on her Facebook page, begging people to store and discard their marijuana products appropriately to protect pets.

My dog Hazel was poisoned with marijuana yesterday.We finished our run at 3:30 pm. I left her at home to go shopping….

Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter on Thursday, July 5, 2018

Cannabinoid products tend to be all over the pet (and human) product market but those products are all void of THC, the hallucinogenic (and poisonous to pets) property in marijuana. When people toss their joints as many toss cigarettes, pets may ingest and then are poisoned.

The American Veterinarian Medical Association says that calls to their Poison Helpline about accidental marijuana ingestion have risen exponentially–448% over the past six years. Dogs are curious and non-judgemental eaters; they easily get into bags of what they may think is a tasty treat or gobble down a piece of ‘trash’ that turns out to be a joint, and then the problems occur. Cats also are harmed by marijuana, mostly in the form of second-hand joint smoke but the largest number of poison calls are about dogs.

Peter Bowie is an emergency veterinarian in Marin County and says that he guesses he treats at least four or five dogs a week for the accidental consumption of marijuana. Bowie says that treatment consists of supportive care, but more serious cases require IV fluids and respiratory watches.

Related: Pet Owners Turn To Medical Marijuana To Treat Their Pets

Because dogs have more concentrations of cannabinoid receptors, they are more vulnerable to the effects of cannabis than humans. It’s not just a situation where your dog is ‘stoned,’ but a serious case of poisoning. Dogs can have seizures, become comatose and basically suffer the equivalent of a ‘really bad trip.’ The more THC the dog ingests, the more severe the symptoms will be.

Most dogs do recover from the poisoning, but there are cases of dogs dying from consuming marijuana, and marijuana smoke can give dogs contact buzzes, so veterinarians warn users to be protective about the storage and use of marijuana products around pets.

Dr. Gunter’s relieved that Hazel has fully recovered, but says she hopes that people learn from her story and protect their pets, and the pets of others.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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