(SacBee) Star, a petite 6-year-old sheltie who competes in dog agility shows, almost missed a contest this month. She had spent the previous night at the vet, totally stoned on pot.
Her drug trip was an accident. Star lives in Oregon, where recreational use of marijuana became legal last year. Her owner’s husband had left some loose-leaf pot on the dining room table, and Star got curious. That was days after her sister, Kicker, gobbled up a pot-infused hard candy she found in the car, leaving her wobbling and incontinent. A veterinarian gave both dogs activated charcoal to absorb the toxin, which contributed to nearly $3,000 in medical bills and caused Star to poop in the ring during her competition.
“It was a bad week,” said the dogs’ owner, Susan Fry, of South Lebanon, Ore.
But it was probably a fairly routine week for the clinic that treated the dogs. As more jurisdictions legalize marijuana, veterinarians across the country say they are seeing a sharp increase in cases of pets accidentally getting high. Tasty “edibles” such as muffins and cookies that people consume for a buzz are also appealing to animals, who can’t read warning labels, and, in the case of dogs, rarely stop at just one pot brownie.
“Dogs used to kind of chew on the stash growing in the basement. Now they’re finding a big bag of gummy bears,” said Heidi Houchen, a veterinarian at VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists in a suburb of Portland, which treats a few marijuana cases a week. “Dogs are Hoovers. Dogs are the rock eaters.”
These incidents, which are rarely fatal, have driven a 330 percent increase over the past five years in calls about pets on pot to the Pet Poison Helpline, said Ahna Brutlag, a veterinary toxicologist who is associate director of the Minnesota-based animal poison control center. Two-thirds of the calls involve marijuana edibles, and nearly all involve dogs, she said. Veterinarians also cited examples of chihuahuas lapping up bong water, cats being exposed to vaping, and even rabbits, ferrets and birds getting accidentally stoned.
In the year after pot became legal for recreational use in Oregon, DoveLewis, a large emergency veterinary clinic in Portland, saw a 63 percent increase in marijuana toxicity cases despite a client base growth of just 7 percent, said Alaina Buller, a clinic spokeswoman. Those findings echoed the results of a 2012 study that found such cases quadrupled at two Colorado veterinary clinics in the five years after medical marijuana was legalized in that state.