Veterinarian warns dog owners on cannabis risks, saying cases come in weekly

Dogs are especially sensitive to THC, with signs of toxicity including a low heart rate

A veterinarian is warning dog owners to be careful with cannabis, saying her clinic is treating about one dog per week for marijuana toxicity.

Dr. Maggie Brown-Bury said it’s become common to see multiple dogs at her St. John’s clinic for cannabis toxicity at one time — it treated three dogs last week alone.

“We are going to keep seeing an increase in those cases until people get educated,” said Brown-Bury, whose Veterinary Specialty Centre of Newfoundland and Labrador doesn’t track the precise number of such cases.

“There’s not usually any long-term effects to the dog from marijuana toxicity, they’d have to take in a pretty large amount […] but the symptoms are quite alarming if you’re not sure what you’re looking at.”

The cases often involve the dog consuming a cannabis product at home, or picking up a discarded joint or other tetrahydrocannabinol-rich (THC) product in a public space.

Dogs are especially sensitive to THC, with signs of toxicity including a low heart rate, dribbling urine, difficulty walking, vomiting, and exaggerated response to stimulus.

Brown-Bury said some patients are open about the fact that their dog consumed a product at home, but it can be more difficult to trace the symptoms when consumption takes place in public.

The impact varies based on the size of the dog — a small dog could become ill from consuming just the discarded end of a joint — but even larger animals are at risk if they come across a sizable portion.

Lori Savory and her husband had a serious scare last Saturday night, when their 55-pound husky Aspen fell sick at a busy St. John’s park near their home.

After noticing Aspen vomiting and lying down on the ground during her walk, the couple rushed the dog to vet, where they were told she likely consumed an edible cannabis product on the field.

Savory said Aspen’s condition has improved dramatically, but the $1,000 visit to the vet was a wake-up call.

“At the point where my husband put her into the car, she was so limp and non-responsive he didn’t even know whether she was still alive or not,” said Savory.

Brown-Bury said cases like Aspen’s, where the product was consumed outside the home, can make tracking the number of incidents difficult, but the unique symptoms can be compared to previous cases to make an informed treatment decision.

“We can never ask the dog any questions, so that always makes it a bit challenging,” said Brown-Bury. “They’ll pick up just about anything and we’re seeing effects.”

As October’s legalization date approaches, Brown-Bury said she hopes pet owners will become more aware of the symptoms of cannabis toxicity in dogs, and that cannabis users will be conscious of the risks to dogs and small children when in shared public spaces.

“Not passing judgement on what people are doing with their spare time, but you’ve got to be aware that other people are using that space with dogs or with small children who might not have the sense to recognize the danger,” said Brown-Bury.

In Colorado, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, there was a four-fold increase in reported cases of toxicity in dogs between 2010 and 2015.

Brown-Bury said death is very rare, and she personally has not treated a case that severe.

Medicinal cannabis products that have high cannabidiol (CBD) levels are used to treat health problems in humans, but the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has not approved any cannabis products for medicinal use on animals.

Brown-Bury said there’s little research around the impact of CBD on animals, which makes it difficult to give informed advice to pet owners looking to treat their dogs with medicinal cannabis.

Almost a week after the park incident, Savory said Aspen is back to her usual hyper self, and back to “aggravating her older sister,” but she hopes Aspen’s story encourages people to be more careful with their cannabis use.

“We’re expecting her to be good as new, but as I said, scary stuff. Very scary.”

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Spray Park Committee hosting kid friendly New Year’s Eve party

The Sylvan Lake Spray Park Committee is hosting the Kids Countdown Party fundraiser on Dec. 31

Sylvan Lake Grade 6 students learn about municipal government first-hand

Grade 6 students are learning about municipal government and attended Monday’s Council meeting

PHOTOS: A unique set up for Sylvan Lake’s most recent Christmas market

The first annual Stocking Stuffer Market was held on Dec. 8 in the NexSource Centre

PHOTO: Angels Anonymous deliver Christmas toys once again

All the tags from the Angels Anonymous Tree at Dairy Queen have been claimed

Four new paramedics for Sylvan Lake

The provincial government announced Sylvan Lake will see an increase of four new EMS staff

Girl opens Christmas present she gave to boy when she dumped him in 1971

Adrian Pearce, now a married father of two, received the small present from his highschool sweetheart

Liberal Party moves Trudeau fundraiser from military base

The fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 19, with tickets costing up to $400

Federal government plans examination of coerced sterilization

The Liberals have been pressed for a rapid response to recent reports on the sterilizations

Huitema, Cornelius named 2018 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

Huitema was captain of Canada’s fourth-place team at this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

New report released at the United Nations climate talks in Poland

Goodale to ‘examine’ transfer of Rafferty to medium-security prison

Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of Tori Stafford

Minister appoints former CIRB chair to resolve Canada Post labour dispute

Postal workers engaged in weeks of rotating walkouts

Alberta Finance Minister says equalization program not working

Equalization formula fails Alberta again, says UCP

Omar Khadr to ask for Canadian passport to travel, permission to speak to sister

He spent years in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay after he was caught when he was 15

Most Read