Pot and Pooches

Beat poet, musician, and recent Nobel laureate, Bob Dylan, may have said it best when he sang, “the times, they are a changin’.”

Ohio recently became the latest in a spate of states to legalize at least one form of marijuana. This represents a great leap forward in policy for people, but has proven to be trouble for our pets.

Marijuana, or cannabis, can have an incredible array of therapeutic effects in humans. Despite a dearth of scientific data due, mainly, to a government ban on testing, there is an incredible amount of anecdotal evidence that it can ease chronic pain, stop seizures, and even help fight cancer. Of course, it can also help a user to relax and “mellow out.” The effects on our canine companions are not as positive.

I recently had a discussion with a veterinary friend about their experience following the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. She has seen several dogs suffering marijuana intoxication since the laws have been relaxed. According to her, there are some telltale signs of a dog that has ingested pot. Where pot may help a person to chill out, it can cause hyper-sensitivity in dogs. That means sensory input like noise, light, even a gentle touch can cause extreme reactions. It can also cause  severe agitation, anxiety, and even seizures. Typically, if a dog goes into a seizure, some sedatives can be given to help ease them, but this is not an option if the dog has already ingested marijuana. To make matters worse, many times when vets do see dogs who have accidentally eaten pot, it is in edible form and often contains chocolate which adds a layer of concern to the already troubling situation.

Recently, I was at a Cincinnati-area vet clinic when they got the call about a dog that had eaten two powerful pot-laced brownies. To the owner’s credit, they fessed up quickly to what “April” had ingested.  She arrived and I helped get her from the back of the owner’s SUV. She was squinting her eyes and rocking back and forth. I carried her in and watched as she compulsively licked at the air. She had the shakes and the staff immediately got a catheter in and began fluids. The owner was beside himself with worry.

Here’s a look at what it can look like. By this time, she had calmed down a bit and the shaking behavior had eased down to a slight tremble. 

April spent the day at the hospital getting IV fluids and sleeping in a dark quiet kennel. At one point, I tried to take her out for a little potty break and she was having trouble walking, then we stepped into the sunshine and it was like kryptonite to Superman. She immediately laid down closed her eyes and tried to sleep. While it was amusing, it was also sad. I helped her back to her unsteady feet and went back to cool quiet kennel. To help speed the process of elimination of the toxin, she returned the next day for more fluids and monitoring. By the end of the second day, she was back to her normal interactive, loving self. She was a lucky girl.

One of the reasons pot is a useful alternative medicine for people is believed to be the cannabinoids, a naturally occurring compound inside the plant, more than the intoxicating element or THC. Coming up in a future post, I’ll tell you about a few new products aimed at helping put those healing elements to use while keeping your dog straight, not stoned.


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