Sharon Cook’s puppy, Walter, needed emergency intravenous after he apparently ate a butt of cannabis in a park.
Some veterinarians are concerned that more pets will be poisoned by accidentally eating pot when Canada legalizes edible cannabis products this fall.
There are already anecdotal reports from veterinarians across the country who say they are treating more dogs suffering toxic reactions to THC after dried marijuana and oils were made legal last fall, says Dr. Ian Sandler, a member of the national issues committee for the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.
When cannabis-laced baked goods, candy and drinks hit Canadian shelves, the problem could get worse, warns Sandler, co-founder of Grey Wolf Animal Health, a company that sells animal health products.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association unsuccessfully urged Health Canada to add “pets” to the labels required on cannabis products warning consumers to keep them away from children.
The public also needs to be educated about the risk to pets who accidentally eat products containing THC, the chemical component of cannabis that causes the high. he said.
While pets don’t usually die from THC poisoning, they can become quite ill.
Cannabis edibles will be legal in the fall and it’s expected they will be on sale by mid-December. Canadians can now make their own edible products with cannabis oil, which is legal.
Sandler said the presence of cannabis-laced baked goods made with chocolate, macadamia nuts or raisins pose an added threat, because those ingredients are also toxic to dogs.
Depending on the size and age of a dog, how much of the edible it consumes and other underlying health conditions, a chocolate pot brownie with macadamia nuts, for example, may even be lethal.
Some people might not realize the risk, Sandler said. “People are very aware of where their kids are. They might put a (cannabis) brownie away on a very high surface, away from them, but forget about the golden retriever that may get up and table surf.”
Pets also eat cannabis products, such as butt ends of joints, that have been discarded outside. While dogs aren’t particularly attracted to the taste or smell of cannabis, some will eat dried bud, Sandler said.
“A golden retriever or a lab will eat just about anything.”
That’s what happened to Walter, a puppy who ate cannabis in an Ottawa park on Tuesday and became violently ill. His owner suspects he ate part of a cannabis joint that had been thrown on the ground. Walter recovered after receiving intravenous fluids and spending the night at the Ottawa Animal Emergency and Specialty Hospital.
A veterinarian at that hospital, Robert Ward, says he sees at least one case of THC toxicity each week and sometimes as many as three or four. It’s usually dogs because cats are pickier about what they eat.
Ward moved to Canada last fall from England, where in two years of practice he only saw two cases of marijuana toxicity.
“When working in Canada, I was immediately struck by the volume of patients presenting for the toxicity.”
However, Ward said he asked colleagues and the consensus was that the number of pets with THC toxicity had not increased since recreational marijuana was legalized last October.
The symptoms of THC toxicity in pets include sleepiness, depression, wobbling, pacing and agitation, sound or light sensitivity, inappropriate urination, dilated pupils, vomiting, bloodshot eyes, salivation, fast or slow heart rates, low body temperature, vocalization and, in rare cases, seizures.
Pet owners should “always and immediately” take their pet to a vet if they suspect cannabis poisoning, Ward said.
“If caught early, we can likely empty the stomach or give effective supportive care to minimize the symptoms.”
The best case scenario is the pet is sent home to sleep it off, but delaying veterinary attention can be life-threatening, he said, and it doesn’t matter where your pet got into the marijuana.
“Be as truthful as you can. We just care about the dog and are not there to get anyone into trouble. “
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019