If you have a dog, odds are good that your furry friend occasionally eats something they are not supposed to have. In most cases, such events are usually fodder for a funny story to later share with friends, but when THC is involved, things can get quite serious in a hurry. Far from being the medicinal boon to canines that CBD is proving itself to be, dogs and THC are a bad combination.
Though pets accidentally consuming cannabis precede the advent of legalization, a correlation between places where pot is now legal and an alarming uptick in the number of canine-related calls to poison control hotlines and emergency visits to veterinarians have now reached troubling levels.
Reporting for the L.A. Times, Susanne Rust detailed just how much these numbers have increased.
“In California, where recreational marijuana was legalized in November 2016,” Rust wrote, “call numbers grew by 276% between 2016 and 2020. In Colorado, those numbers have risen eleven-fold since legalization in 2012.”
The story also explores the potential causes for this worrisome trend. One aspect is undoubtedly that as more places vote to legalize cannabis, a greater number of people are now purchasing these products and keeping them in their homes. While it’s every pet owner’s responsibility to ensure products with THC — and especially edibles that combine THC with chocolate — are always securely kept away from children and pets, it’s unsurprising, if far from ideal, to see legal markets tied to higher rates of accidental pet consumption of cannabis.
There is, however, another facet at play: dogs that find and eat discarded edibles while out for a walk. Beyond the more benign question of why someone would go to the trouble of paying a premium price for a cannabis edible only to leave it as litter, the more pressing issue is the apparent prevalence of tempting weed refuse being discarded where dogs can find it.
According to Rust, there are now a “growing number” of cannabis-related canine poisonings occurring beyond the home. In Northern California’s Marin County, for instance, one woman wrote on Nextdoor that she’s been forced to take her toy poodle to the emergency room on four separate occasions in the recent past in relation to concerns that her pooch had eaten pot while enjoying the great outdoors.
Sadly, to a certain extent, there isn’t really anything that can be done on a practical level to better protect dogs from inadvertently eating cannabis they find on a sidewalk or nature trail. Aside from closely monitoring the places where your dog chooses to stick their nose (and immediately prying away anything they may subsequently put in their mouth), regulation cannabis edibles are already required to be sold in childproof packaging.
Given a full day with no supervision to gnaw at a product’s casing, it’s certainly possible a pet could breakthrough to the enclosed edible, but in instances of an owner missing but a momentary swallow, the culprit is almost certainly products that have already been removed from their packaging. In short: it is up to the humans who purchase these products to safely consume and dispose of them.
The concept of errant edibles serving as a primary culprit for this rash of new canine cases was preceded by a similar situation in Colorado in 2019. In that case, as Rust explains, “local vets surmised dogs were eating human feces laced with pot.”
An Aspen Times story published in 2019 spotlighted this interesting, albeit rather disgusting, theory in the race to explain a rise in the number of stoned doggies:
“Dr. Scott Dolginow, who owns Valley Emergency Pet Care in Basalt, said he is seeing anywhere between three and 10 dogs a week that come in with marijuana toxicity. His working theory is that these dogs are eating human feces that have enough THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in it to carry over for a second high. And they are finding these piles of pot-laced poop on trails and in campgrounds.”
While the working theory of one local veterinarian is hardly evidence of empiric data on the subject, it does add to a growing pool of evidence, both anecdotal and proven, that collectively indicates that dog owners living in weed-friendly states should exercise extra vigilance and caution when it comes to ensuring their four-legged pals aren’t sticking their snout into the crumbs of a magic brownie, the butt of a joint roach, or… worse.
As a reminder, Rust also shares that signs of a dog experiencing cannabis intoxication include “unsteadiness on their feet, depression, dilated eyes, dribbling urine, sensitivity to touch and sound, slow heart rate and even low body temperature. Symptoms usually begin to present about 20-40 minutes after exposure.”
Speaking with the L.A. Times, veterinarian Tina Wismer, who also serves as senior director of the New York-based ASPCA Poison Control Center, encouraged any dog owner worried that their pet be suffering from cannabis poisoning to contact their veterinarian immediately. While milder cases will usually result in a recommendation that the pooch simply “ride it out,” more serious situations — including those where chocolate has also been ingested — may result in the need to seek more urgent care.