started on a Tuesday night, when I came home from work
to an unmistakable absence. My brown-and-white pitbull
mix, Maizey, wasn’t at the top of the stairs to greet
me. Instead, she was in her bed, shaky and confused.
tried to get her up, she stumbled, nearly falling over
while standing still. Walking to the vet, she leaped
like a puppy chasing imaginary balls.
the 24-hour veterinary clinic in San Francisco’s
Mission District, the staff ran tests and determined
Maizey was in no immediate danger.
they wagered a guess that Maizey was simply high. On
DOGS GETTING HIGH?
will get into anything and everything,” said
veterinarian Dorrie Black of the San Francisco-based
veterinary clinic Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty
states and the District of Columbia now have legalized
pot in some form. And since Colorado ushered in
recreational marijuana in 2014, nine more states and
D.C. have followed. As weed has become easier for people
to get, it has also become a hazard for dogs.
said dogs ingest marijuana by eating the remainder of a
joint, or getting into someone’s edible marijuana,
either at home, on the street or in parks.
unsavory source in San Francisco — and other cities
with high numbers of people living on the streets — is
human feces tainted with marijuana. This is, in fact,
what we think happened to Maizey. She had spent quite a
bit of time in the park bushes the morning she got
love that (poop) scent; to them, it’s perfume,” said
other veterinarians see this becoming more common in the
Bay Area, as the homeless population grows.
A HIGH DOG LOOK LIKE?
Benjamin Otten of allCREATURES veterinary clinic in El
Cerrito, Calif., said he looks for these telltale
symptoms when identifying “marijuana toxicity” in a
Wobbly movements, like a person who is drunk
dazed or glazed look in their eyes
exhibit these symptoms because THC — the psychoactive
element of marijuana — is poisonous to them. Despite
that, none of the vets interviewed for this story had
seen an animal die from marijuana toxicity.
nothing about that actual drug itself that will kill
them,” Black said. “It doesn’t cause any organ
failure. It doesn’t cause liver failure, renal
happen, Black said, is that the drug can sedate a dog so
fully that it will inhale its own vomit, which can be
lethal. For that reason, Black cautions pet owners to
play it safe.
do not know the quantity that they got into, I’m
always going to recommend that you go to your vet,”
Colorado study found that two dogs who’d ingested
chocolate baked goods made with marijuana-infused butter
had died, but it’s unclear if this was from the
marijuana, the chocolate or the combination of those
components. Butter and dark chocolate, common
ingredients in edible marijuana products, can be highly
toxic to dogs.
or CBD, on the other hand, is marketed to pet owners for
a variety of pet ailments. But the research is
incomplete about its efficacy for treating things like
animal anxiety and seizures, and veterinarians are not
allowed to recommend CBD to patients (although a bill
making its way through California’s Senate could
YOU TREAT A DOG THAT HAS INGESTED MARIJUANA?
marijuana’s effects on a dog, Black said, there are a
few options: Veterinarians can induce vomiting, pump a
dog’s stomach or give the dog activated charcoal,
which will help remove the marijuana from the dog’s
average, it typically takes about 24 hours for a dog to
return to normal — but it varies depending on the
strength and amount of marijuana the dog has eaten.
who formerly worked as an emergency vet, joked about
what he used to tell pet owners: “We’re gonna take
your dog in, we’re gonna put him in a quiet room.
We’re gonna play some Led Zeppelin for him and give
him some Doritos, and you can pick him up in the
DOES TREATING YOUR DOG COST?
own vet bill put us out $300, veterinarian John de Jong,
president of the American Veterinary Medical
Association, said interventions like bloodwork and IV
fluids could cost up to $1,000.
to be rarer for cats to ingest marijuana. Black said she
has seen only one case involving a cat in her 17 years
in emergency veterinary medicine.
Jong also has not seen any high cats come through his
practice, he said, some cats do like to chew on plants,
which could be an issue if someone is growing marijuana
LEGALIZATION FOR HUMANS CHANGED THINGS FOR DOGS?
who is based in Massachusetts, is seeing more incidences
of marijuana toxicity. Marijuana is legal for medical
and recreational purposes in Massachusetts.
those states that have legalized marijuana, we are
seeing an increased incidence of marijuana toxicity in
pets, especially in dogs,” he said.
marijuana is legal in 10 states and the District of
Columbia, and many more states allow medical marijuana.
the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center about dogs
eating weed have increased sevenfold since last year,
and calls to the Pet Poison Helpline have quadrupled in
the past five years. A 2012 study conducted in Colorado
found a significant correlation between the number of
medical marijuana licenses and marijuana toxicosis cases
California, both Black and Otten said the changes to
marijuana’s legality have not significantly increased
the number of visits they get from blitzed dogs and
their owners. Black said she sees up to three affected
dogs a week in the summer.
Black and Otten said has changed, however, is the
potency of the drugs the dogs are consuming.
said that at the start of her career in emergency
veterinary medicine, marijuana toxicity consisted of a
dog eating the end of a joint with fairly low amounts of
THC. But, she said, “we got heavier and heavier
toxicities over time because of medical grade marijuana
and because of edibles.”
Maizey, she was just fine a few days after her foray
into canine cannabis. Though she once seemed interested
in imaginary balls, now she has settled back into
chasing real ones.