Nfld. & Labrador

Vet says to keep paws off pot as cases of marijuana toxicity in dogs increase

Mount Pearl veterinarian Maggie Brown-Bury is telling pet owners to keep their dogs’ paws away from pot.

Maggie Brown-Bury says she sees about 1 dog a week that has consumed cannabis

Veterinarian Maggie Brown-Bury says if your dog has eaten a pot product, it's best to get them to a clinic right away. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

A veterinarian is telling pet owners to keep their dogs' paws away from pot.

Maggie Brown-Bury, a vet at the Veterinary Specialty Centre in Mount Pearl, says that it's become more common for her clinic to treat dogs that have consumed a pot product since marijuana was legalized — seeing about one dog a week, on average.

Brown-Bury said many people are now more honest about canine run-ins with cannabis, however.

"We are finding that since it's become legalized, people are a bit more open," she said.

Marijuana is absorbed very quickly into a dog's stomach, so there's a narrow window where we might be able to make them vomit.- Maggie Brown-Bury

"With the [cases] where we can tell from the symptoms, this looks like marijuana, and we ask them 'is there marijuana in the house?' they're much more forthcoming with that information."

In most cases, Brown-Bury said, the dogs she sees have consumed edibles, but some dogs could have eaten a rolled joint or the marijuana flower.

"Dogs just think that anything that fits in their mouth is fair game," she said.

If your dog does eat pot, she said to bring the pet to a vet as soon as possible.

Maggie Brown-Bury says dogs have a much higher sensitivity to THC than humans. (CBC)

"There's a very narrow window. Marijuana is absorbed very quickly into a dog's stomach, so there's a narrow window where we might be able to make them vomit — get it out of their system before they experience the symptoms," Brown-Bury said.

Unfortunately, there is no antidote for the dogs once the symptoms begin, Brown-Bury said. A vet can only give support and help the dog "ride out the high," providing fluids and sedatives, if necessary.

Brown-Bury said it's uncommon, but there have been some fatal cases in the U.S. so it's best to keep pot in a place that's out of a dog's reach.

'Overreacting to stimuli'

Brown-Bury said the first symptom dog owners will often notice is stumbling or having trouble walking.

"They're walking not in a straight line, they might be falling over. Some owners feel like the dog can't walk. They may be twitchy," she said.

"[The dog] is overreacting to stimuli, so every sound, every touch makes their whole body jerk, and some of them will have urinary incontinence, so they're just dribbling urine."

Vets will also notice additional symptoms at a clinic, like a decreased heart rate, altered temperature or dilated pupils.

Brown-Bury said marijuana is a common enough toxicity in dogs that the signs have become relatively easy for her to recognize.

"Most dogs that are having a meltdown and freaking out, their heart rate's going to be very high, because they're very anxious," she said. 

"When you see a dog that's freaking out over every little thing, but his heart rate is really low, there's very few other scenarios besides marijuana toxicity."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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