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Veterinary Talk by Dr. Jim Humphries

More dogs eating marijuana in Colorado

More dogs are getting sick ñ not high ñ from ingesting marijuana! A study conducted at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine shows that the number of animals being treated for marijuana toxicity quadrupled between 2005 and 2010. Two of these animals died. This number correlates with the increase in numbers of registered medical marijuana users during those same years, and weíll see even more now it is legal in the state of Colorado. Most cases are not from owners trying to get their pets high for fun, although that does occur, but from pets getting into their ownersí marijuana. So, if you have it, store this potentially serious toxin in pet-proof containers away from the dogs.The signs of marijuana intoxication are depression, a glassy-eyed appearance, stumbling, dilated pupils, vomiting; and, in about 25 percent of dogs, agitation and excitement. More severe symptoms include vomiting, tremors and urinary incontinence. Deaths occur when the dogs choke on their own vomit.The most common mode of exposure is from dogs who are eating marijuana-laced human foods like cakes, cookies brownies and suckers. And it is becoming much more common. Some veterinarians are seeing these cases several times a week, and it is now a nightly occurrence at local area emergency hospitals.As the stigma surrounding the drug lessens because of the Colorado law, more and more pet owners are mixing marijuana with various foods; and, when the dogs get into these human foods, they can become toxic very fast. These dogs used to not receive treatment because owners were afraid to bring them into a veterinary hospital for treatment, fearing being turned over to law enforcement. Now, however, more pets are coming in after the signs begin. Veterinarians are more aware of the symptoms and the possibility of exposure, and are getting treatment to them more quickly.You will see some of the symptoms begin within one hour, but dogs metabolize the chemical differently and the effects may last much longer ñ and they need treatment. If a veterinarian can see the dog within two hours, treatment can be tried and the dog monitored for at least 24 hours. We know to protect our dogs from antifreeze, chocolate, grapes or other known pet toxins, but leaving out the human foods laced with marijuana is now a growing concern and the major form of ingestion. Further, these foods are usually very high in fat or sugar, and those alone can cause real problems in dogs. It is a double dose of trouble for our unsuspecting dog friends.Most people know that marijuana is used for medicinal purposes in humans so they mistakenly believe it is not a concern if their dog eats some. But, if you think of it as a toxin, just like antifreeze or chocolate, you would be less likely to leave it laying around for inquisitive and hungry pets.Therefore, we should begin to think of this as a potential pet poison and the food it is in as a carrier that can also cause problems. Keep all edibles packed up and safely away from pets and children! Call your veterinarian or the animal emergency hospital if your pet begins to show symptoms and you suspect ingestion. Dr. Jim Humphries is a house call veterinarian in Falcon. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes.

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