Princeton vet Ryan Ridgway has a pointed message for pet owners – keep them off the pot.
Cascade Veterinary Clinic sees an average of two dogs or cats a month that are suffering from marijuana poisoning, he said.
By way of comparison they get approximately two cases of chocolate poisoning per year.
“In most cases they [the animals] either steal it out of the garbage can or get it in baked goods…Just second hand smoke can be enough and we have had cases where it was second hand smoke and they were effectively hot-boxed.”
While Ridgway said he has noticed no increase in the number of animals he sees suffering from marijuana poisoning, other vets have observed a significant upturn in these cases.
According the North America-wide Pet Poison Helpline, calls about pot toxicity have increased 333 per cent since 2015.
“There haven’t been any links to legalization at this point. It looks like more people are using it and it’s out there more.”
According to Ridgway marijuana – primarily its THC – blocks the release of neurotransmitters in an animal’s brain.
That leads to lack of co-ordination, disorientation, vomiting, behavior changes, tremors and even seizures.
“Sometimes they will be vocalizing because they are scared. They are hallucinating and having a bad trip.”
He said clinic vets have spent entire nights sitting with a dog poisoned by marijuana, treating its seizures and trying to save its life.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “More often than not it’s accidental, not intentional, but we do deal with the odd intentional case where they [the owners] thought it was funny.”
Ridgway said those pet owners are dangerous.
“If they think it’s funny then they need to shake their heads and take a look in the mirror. It’s not funny. It’s very serious and animal abuse is a crime.”
Some pet owners attempt to treat their own animals with marijuana products, but they are also endangering their pets, said Ridgway.
He noted while there is some evidence to suggest marijuana can be helpful to treat epilepsy and seizures in dogs there is too great a toxicity risk attached to its use and research is still developing.
“Health Canada doesn’t have any products approved.”
Ridgway said an animal’s size can determine, in part, how it reacts to marijuana or any other drug or substance.
“You would need to know the concentration that’s in the product so that you give an appropriate dose and there are so many variations in the active ingredient within the different products and with the different plants and some of them are very potent.”
While Cascade vets have managed to save every pet they’ve treated for marijuana, they did watch a dog die after it had swallowed Tylenol.
Ridgway’s advice is that if an animal has ingested a toxin such as pot, chocolate, or caffeine it needs to receive vet care immediately.
“Treat [marijuana] like any other medication or toxin that could be fatal and cause a lot of issues and just store it safely and be careful with it. Don’t just treat it like it’s something really safe and make sure that your pet stays out of it.”