Alibi V.24 No.38 • Sept 17-23, 2015 

Feature

Cannabis Familiaris

What to do when your pet finds your pot

smokin’ dog
Robert Maestas

You’ve probably heard stories or seen YouTube videos of people whose pets have accidentally gotten into their pot stash. The dogs will be falling over, wide-eyed and tongue lolling. Sometimes the pet-owners just laugh at their furry friends as though they were a college buddy who had drunk too much Jäger; others freak out, take their “family member” to the vet and sheepishly admit that the dog ate weed. It may seem funny to some, but to Fido, who doesn't understand why his body isn't working like it should, it's scary.

Since many people are afraid to talk to their vet about pot and the internet is rife with misinformation, the Alibi spoke with local emergency veterinarian, Dr. Brent Megarry, DVM at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center of New Mexico to get the real scoop on what happens to dogs that eat marijuana and how to best take care of them.

First of all, what are the symptoms? According to the doc, they include euphoria, dizziness, vomiting, hyperaesthesia (abnormal sensitivity to stimuli), nausea and an inability to walk straight. As Megarry says, they’re “basically stoned for lack of a better term.” Of course the severity of the symptoms depends on the size of your dog and the quantity and quality of the marijuana that they’ve ingested. The ASPCA website also lists seizures and death (rarely) but, according to Megarry, the seizures are most likely caused by the chocolate in edibles like “special” brownies. Death is also more likely to be caused by secondary issues such as aspirating vomit or not being able to get out of the way of a car because of the inability to walk right.

While most dogs sober up within 8-24 hours, Dr. Megarry recommends bringing your canine companion to the vet for “decontamination and support” which involves activated charcoal to make the dog throw up the pot and IV “fluid support to push the THC out” of the animal’s system. Also, make sure to be totally honest with your vet about what your pet ate and how much. Most vets will be very discrete and the accident will be treated with something akin to doctor-patient confidentiality. Plus the symptoms can look like a variety of diseases (with lots of expensive diagnostic tests) but the docs will eventually find out the truth anyway since they can use human, over-the-counter drug tests on your dog’s urine once they deduce that your fuzzy mammal is probably just high as a kite.

Death is also more likely to be caused by secondary issues such as aspirating vomit or not being able to get out of the way of a car because of the inability to walk right.

If you’re still too paranoid to seek help for your pup, just make sure to keep a close watch so that he/she doesn’t get injured. Don't let them go near streets, ledges or stairs because they are ataxic (unable to coordinate muscular movements) and ensure that they don't aspirate anything if they start to vomit. Try to comfort them because they’ll probably be scared and dizzy.

But what if you gave it to your doggie on purpose? Other than the morons who get their pets high because they think it’s funny (it’s not) some people give their ailing or elderly pets small amounts of cannabis or cannabis-glycerin tinctures to help with pain-relief, cancer, arthritis and appetite stimulation. While various pet-owners have proclaimed the beneficial effects of Cannabis sativa on their Canis familiaris, neither Dr. Megarry nor the American Veterinary Medical Association can recommend it. There hasn’t been enough scientific research done and even in the few tests that have occurred, the results can be difficult to define since “you can't ask a dog if it feels better.”

Dr. Megarry says Marinol® (dronabinol), the cannabinoid medicine that is made with synthetic THC, has been used for refractory seizures and other conditions but “everything is still very experimental.” There is no set dose—just “to effect”—and it still has not yet been listed as therapeutic. According to the doc, “Humans have to finish their [human-based medical] studies before it can be transferred to animals.” So if you decide the “help” your sick puppy anyway, just make sure you do the research and have your emergency vet’s number on hand.

With marijuana-related emergencies increasing by 30-40% at the VESC Emergency Clinic here in Albuquerque—almost entirely from pet-owners who use the plant recreationally—it’s more important than ever to keep your stash safe and your animal safer by making sure the two stay apart. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and Dr. Megarry says they’re “very driven towards marijuana. Be wary of ashes, bong water and especially food like brownies.”

For further questions or animal emergencies, contact the VESC Emergency Clinic (4000 Montgomery NE) which is open every day of the year, at 505-884-3433. And when it comes to your medicinals, in the words of the knowledgeable Dr. Megarry, “just keep it away from the dog.”