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Dogs are getting high in Bow Valley and it is a real downer

Tips from a veterinarian on how to keep yours and other pups safe from accidental THC poisonings.

Oct. 17th is the second anniversary of cannabis becoming legal in Canada.

While the transition has been relatively easy and many have enjoyed the benefits of cannabis, there has been a disturbing new revelation developing in the Bow Valley – dogs are getting high. 

No, dogs aren’t smoking behind the schoolyard like teenagers, but like kids, they are into stashes or simply sniffing out a butt that might have the slightest scent of food and eating it. 

If you have ever seen a dog on THC (not CBD for joint care) but a dog on THC by accident, it can be rough and truly unfair for our furry friends. In some cases, dogs have died from getting into THC. 

We spoke with Dr. Jen Williams from Canmore Veterinary Hospital about what she has seen this summer and some simple preventive behaviour we can do to keep our pups safe. 

51 North: What are some of the ways dogs are getting into THC?  

Dr. Jen Williams: We think that dogs are ingesting the discarded butts left on the ground by people. We have also seen dogs get into their owners' personal “stashes” of marijuana at home. Finally, and this is really gross, but we have seen dogs eat the feces of people that have ingested edibles. 

51: How often are you seeing dogs on THC?

DJW: Over the summer, we have been seeing about one case per week. 

51: What are the symptoms? There are many possible symptoms. 

DJW: The classic presentation to a veterinary clinic with marijuana toxicity is depression (profoundly lethargic), low body temperature, low heart rate and dribbling urine. Many other symptoms are possible. These can include an uncoordinated or wobbly gait, vomiting, tremors, dilated or constricted pupils, salivating profusely or vocalizing. Severe intoxication could result in seizures, coma or even death.

51: What are the treatments?

DJW: There is no specific antidote for marijuana toxicity in dogs. The treatment is often supportive. This includes things such as intravenous fluids, anti-vomiting drugs, and warming devices to manage a low body temperature. Sometimes it can take a few days for the effects to wear off. In severe cases, anti-seizure medications are needed. 

It is important to make a proper diagnosis. We can run a urine test for THC in order to differentiate it from other causes of these symptoms such as antifreeze poisoning. Antifreeze poisoning has a very different treatment protocol and prognosis.

51: What are some suggestions for preventing dogs from getting into THC?

DJW: It would be great if people would discard their used butts in the garbage rather than on the ground where dogs can access them. We have seen cases where dogs being walked on a leash in campgrounds have quickly ingested butts before their owners could even see what they were eating. 

Now that edibles are legalized in Canada, there is a risk that dogs will ingest these. It is really important that these are stored in a way that dogs can not access them.