This is Your Pet on Pot: Veterinarians Deal with Dogs that have Eaten Owners' Weed

With the expanding legalization of medical marijuana comes in increase of dogs that have consumed vast quantities of their owners’ edibles.
Joe Hannan
Published: November 02, 2016
As a veterinarian, you’re probably accustomed to treating dogs and cats that have eaten all kinds of interesting things. But with the expansion of legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana, you might have noticed an uptick in pets that have gotten into their owners' stashes.
 
It’s not just you. The Washington Post reports that incidents involving pets that have consumed their owner’s marijuana are on the rise. Edibles, the Post writes, seem to be popular among dogs these days.
 
In the Post’s report, Heidi Houchen, DVM, is quoted as saying that “Dogs used to kind of chew on the stash growing in the basement. Now they’re finding a big bag of gummy bears. … Dogs are Hoovers. Dogs are the rock eaters.”
 
According to the Post, the Pet Poison Helpline has reported a 330 percent increase in calls about stoned pets over the past 5 years. The trend also seems to be supported by research. A study published in the December 2012 edition of the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care found a correlation between medical pot licenses and pets with marijuana toxicosis in two veterinary hospitals in Colorado.
 
The good news is that these edible episodes seem to rarely prove fatal, the Post reports. And veterinarians are learning to recognize the symptoms sooner.
 
There are two important takeaways for veterinarians as legal weed continues to expand. The first, pot is much stronger than it used to be. This means that lives of small animals are particularly at risk if they’ve consumed marijuana. The second is that many pot edibles contain chocolate, which poses its own unique set of toxicity problems for dogs.
 
These incidents, however, haven’t deterred at least one veterinarian from touting medical marijuana for pets for the very same reasons pot is prescribed to humans. KTAR news, a station that serves the Phoenix, AZ area, quotes Elizabeth Hershey, DVM, as saying that “the potential benefits are there.”
 
“For chronic pain conditions, just like in people (it) can greatly improve the patient’s quality of life and potentially can reduce a lot of the symptoms of our cancer patients,” she said.
 
Dr. Hershey also notes that pot has led to increased appetites among pets undergoing chemo therapy.
 
“I would love to be able to see it legalized and the stances change such that veterinarians could prescribe it for their patients legally.”
 

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