Veterinarians are warning pet owners to cautiously stash their marijuana, as a wave of emergency visits involving pets consuming the drug is sweeping the nation.
Vets in Colorado, which along with Washington state legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, are reporting record numbers of visits to clinics and emergency hospitals.
Bri Pasko of the VRCC Emergency Hospital in Englewood told ABC News that since the legalization of medical marijuana in 2000, admissions of pets for marijuana consumption have increased from occasional occurrences to several cases per week. Ninety-seven percent of the pets are dogs; most have eaten marijuana edibles.
“They are so curious and have such strong noses,” Pasko said of dogs.
Colorado’s experience has also been reported in Arizona, which legalized medical marijuana in 2010. Dr. Billy Griswold, a veterinarian at Emergency Animal Clinic in North Scottsdale, told CBS Phoenix that the number of pets he’s treated for marijuana ingestion has doubled over the past few years. Emergency Animal Clinic, which owns five Phoenix-area clinics, treats 24 cases of pets eating pot each month.
The proliferation of pot-infused edibles, from cookies, cakes and candies to lozenges, lollipops, snack mixes and even beef jerky, has inevitably led to an increase in pets unwittingly consuming the drug-laced goodies. This can be anything but good for dogs. While cannabis is non-toxic to canines, the chocolate in which the drug is often infused can kill them. Plus, ingesting large quantities of marijuana can seriously upset a dog’s digestion and cause lethargy and stupor.
The real danger is if pets eat synthetic marijuana.
“We have seen a couple of fatalities with [synthetic marijuana],” Griswold told CBS Phoenix. “There are more serious side effects and longer treatments associated with that.”
Despite the dangers of dogs eating marijuana, there is actually a growing number of veterinary and medical marijuana experts who say cannabis may be good for sick and elderly dogs.
“I grew tired of euthanizing pets when I wasn’t doing everything I could to make their lives better,” Los Angeles veterinarian and pet medical marijuana advocate Doug Kramer told the Associated Press. “I felt like I was letting them down.”
Megan Hanley, manager at the Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary La Brea Compassionate Caregivers, told the AP she offers a special liquid marijuana extract called Companion Cannabis for dogs. Hanley said the response to the product has been “tremendous.”