P.E.I. woman warns others after dog ate part of marijuana joint on walking trail

Terry Dunton Stevenson said her dog Jesse showed some scary symptoms after eating part of a cannabis joint discarded on a walking trail.

'I thought she was either having a stroke or a seizure'

Jesse has made a full recovery, says Terry Dunton Stevenson. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Terry Dunton Stevenson wants to warn others about the risk of marijuana to pets after her dog ate part of a joint that she believes was discarded along a trail in Charlottetown.

Stevenson said she realized her dog was in trouble after returning from a long walk on the Confederation Trail with her five-month-old Sheltie dog, Jesse. When her dog tried to get up after a nap, Jesse wasn't able to walk.

"Her head wobbled from side-to-side and her eyes were really dilated and I thought she was either having a stroke or a seizure," said Stevenson. 

"It came on so fast," she said. "I didn't know what was happening." 

Stevenson rushed Jesse to the Atlantic Veterinary Hospital where they induced vomiting and staff found the remnants of a marijuana joint that the dog had eaten, she said.

Stevenson said staff thought right away that it was marijuana poisoning and that prognosis shocked her. 

Case numbers up

AVC veterinarian Dr. Jenine Daley said the problem of pets eating marijuana is becoming more common since legalization. The college sees as many as six cases a week. 

Stevenson says she'll be keeping a closer eye on her dog, Jesse, when they're out on walks. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"On walks is where we're seeing a lot of animals exposed," she said.

AVC isn't tracking numbers but she said there has been research done in the United States.

"Some reports I've seen are an increase over 700 times from years previous," she said.

Daley said it's likely becoming more common because cannabis is more readily available, and veterinarians on the Island are seeing more cases.

Symptoms to look for

Pet owners should watch for symptoms such as: stumbling, having a wobbly gait, lethargy, depression, dribbling urine and vomiting, she said. 

"It doesn't take much to see symptoms occur. Typically it's within 30 minutes to an hour [that] reported cases can show symptoms. It's pretty quick," she said. In some cases cannabis poisoning can lead to more severe symptoms such as coma and seizures, she said, adding that prevention is key.

There do not appear to be long-term effects of cannabis poisoning for dogs, says Dr. Jenine Daley. (Atlantic Veterinary College)

"Obviously within the household, keep cannabis products out of reach," she said.

There are usually no long-term impacts, but she said it can be alarming to pet owners so they should be familiar with the symptoms.

Scary experience

Stevenson said the whole experience was scary.

She didn't see her dog pick up anything, but said her dog likes to sniff in the snow while walking and it's hard to know what she's getting into when she does that. She assumes Jesse found the marijuana when her snout was in the snow.

"I keep an eye on her. I try to keep her from picking up anything, but that was the furthest thing from my mind that she would pick up," said Stevenson.

Stevenson hopes by speaking out pet owners will be more aware of the potential danger and anyone smoking marijuana will avoid tossing their butts in a public area. 

Jesse likes to explore in the snow with her nose when they are out on walks. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"If people would just think twice before throwing it way," said Stevenson. 

"I would really like to help stop this if possible."

Jesse made a full recovery, Stevenson said, adding she's now trying to stick to walking her dog in well-lit areas that aren't used as much in the hope that there will be less risk.

"I will be going more often to areas that are less populated, that's for sure," she said.

She's also checking into muzzles that might prevent her dog from picking up items she shouldn't.

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