How many dog owners realize the danger of their family pet ingesting a marijuana cigarette butt while out for a walk?
It happens more often than you might think, and can be harmful, as one local recently learned.
Virgil resident Helen Arsenault is babysitting Inferno, her grandpuppy, while her daughter is out of town. Inferno is a wee little thing, a six to seven pound Pomeranian, about 18 months old.
Arsenault walks daily on the path in the Virgil sports park, and watches Inferno like a hawk. On Sunday, after a long walk, Inferno became lethargic, and wasn’t interested in eating her breakfast. Arsenault says she had smelled marijuana on the walk, but didn’t see Inferno eat anything off the ground. When the pup settled down for what turned into an unusually long nap, Arsenault at first thought she was just tired from all the exercise. However when it went
on for too long, she tried to wake her up, but couldn’t, and that’s when she began
“She couldn’t open her eyes. I picked her up and she was completely limp. She couldn’t even lift her head. I thought she was dying.”
After asking friends for advice about an animal hospital that would be open on a Sunday, and not having any luck getting the help she was looking for from those she called, she finally found the Niagara Veterinary Emergency Clinic on Merrittville Highway, and as requested, sent them videos of Inferno.
“They said she was comatose, and to bring her in,” says Arsenault. “They did all kinds of tests, including bloodwork.”
They kept her for several hours, monitoring her, and gave her water, but from the outset, her symptoms indicated she had ingested marijuana. Arsenault was told the clinic sees 12 to 15 cases a week, and depending on the size of the dog, and other factors, it can be very serious, and even fatal.
Inferno was fortunate — with some rest, over time the effects wore off, and she’s fine, although she has an appointment Thursday at the Virgil Animal Hospital to be sure she’s okay.
Janet Hemphill has a similar story about her five-pound Yorkie, Nevaeh Grace. Hemphill was digging in her garden at the Creekside Seniors Estate in St. Davids, Nevaeh was sleeping on the ground beside Janet’s husband, who was sitting on a bench close by. Then she started whining, she was going a little crazy, racing around. “She just wanted to run. I took her inside, and she got very wobbly. She could hardly stand up.
Hemphill reached the same emergency clinic as Arsenault, and took Neveah in, where she was diagnosed with ingesting marijuana.
“It hit her hard. I was really scared for her.”
Hemphill took her home that night, and she was better the next day, “but she wasn’t herself for a while. It took her a while to really come around.”
Dr. Derek Nichols, veterinarian and new owner of the Niagara Stone Road clinic, says there should be no repercussions for Inferno, but he will check her out.
The circumstances Arsenault described are becoming increasingly common, he says.
Nichols began working at the hospital about a year and a half ago, after working for a St. Catharines veterinary practice for about 10 years. He and his family live in Virgil, and he is enjoying working in the community, close to home.
Although he has never seen a dog die from ingesting marijuana, it can happen, depending on several factors, including the amount ingested and the size of the dog.
The smaller the dog, the bigger the problem, he explains.
“Dogs seem to like the taste of it, and can be drawn to it, whether in the form of edibles in the house, or outside. Dogs will eat anything, of course, but they will eat that for sure.”
The good news, he says, “is if it’s a small dose, the effects will wear off.”
Typically the symptoms are enough for a diagnosis — if a dog appears drunk, if they’re wobbly on their feet, tired, or leaking urine, unable to control their bladder, it’s pretty clear the cause is ingestion of marijuana.
If they can’t walk or won’t wake up, then a visit to the vet is required, he says.
His advice? Whether at home or outside, try to keep marijuana away from your dog.
Nichols suggests that if you notice any symptoms at all, call your veterinarian to discuss what you’re seeing. They may ask for a video, and they’ll tell you what to look for, how to monitor your pet, and whether a visit is necessary.
More serious symptoms can include high or low heart rate, low blood pressure, and even seizures and death with a high dose, he says, “but in general the prognosis is quite good. They tend to sleep it off in a day. It’s rare for it to be fatal — I’ve never seen that myself, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
If a visit to the hospital is necessary, they will monitor the dog, and if it’s soon enough after ingestion, induce vomiting. An IV could be required to ensure fluid volumes are maintained.
Arsenault adds to that: if you are smoking marijuana outside, in public places, pick up your garbage. Don’t leave butts lying on the ground. Remember, it can poison someone’s pet.
Hemphill agrees. “Leaving a butt on the ground may be convenient, but it’s not worth the danger it poses to furbabies. I really thought I was losing her. This is much more common now that marijuana is legal. It’s really important people realize how dangerous it can be.”