ASPCA says it received more than 1,800 calls in 2018, with the legalisation of cannabis products largely to blame
If you hear a rustling in your kitchen in the middle of the night, and venture downstairs only to find your dog making an unreasonably tall sandwich, don’t be surprised. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says calls about pets getting high from accidentally eating either edible weed products or the cannabis plant itself have risen 765% over the past decade.
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The charity’s poison control center operates a 24-hour hotline. Operators normally get calls about dogs that have eaten chocolate or cats that have chewed at a potted plant. But they are increasingly dealing with stoned pets. In 2008, they received 208 calls about pets consuming marijuana. In 2018, they received more than 1,800.
Since some states began legalising cannabis products, it’s more common to find large amounts of marijuana in the home. Gone are the days when weed brownies were just something you ate in a forest with a guy in a Cannibal Corpse T-shirt. Edibles are a booming corner of the exponentially growing weed industry – and often left in easy to reach spots in the kitchen.
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YouTube is full of videos of stoned dogs doing funny things, but canine cannabis poisoning can be serious. Dogs have far higher sensitivity to THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, than humans or other animals. While it’s rare that cannabis consumption could prove fatal for a dog, a 2013 study found the low-risk of death can be heightened by “ingestion of food products containing the more concentrated medical-grade THC butter”, the sort of thing now available by prescription. The raisins, chocolate or other sugars in edible cannabis products can also be dangerous for dogs.
Even if there are no edibles in your own home, it doesn’t mean your dog won’t find them elsewhere. Last year, Twitter user Seth Mersing posted a video of his three-year-old dog Rita after she appeared to have ingested an edible during a walk in the park.
The strength of the THC in some of these products can cause dogs a great level of discomfort and panic. Incontinence, ataxia and overreaction to sound and other stimulus is common, while in more severe cases a lowered heart rate can potentially prove fatal.
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“It was scary at the time, but it’s funny in retrospect,” says David Gelber of Garrison, New York. He and his family had taken their three-year-old Portuguese water dog Ponyo for a walk in Cold Spring, by the Hudson River.
“She’s a water dog, so she jumps in and out of the river and was playing around in some weeds,” Gelber says. By the time he had made the 20-minute drive home, Ponyo was “semi-comatose”. Gelber took Ponyo to a local vet, who told him to drive her to an animal hospital 45 minutes away. “We really didn’t know what was going on. My wife was cradling her in the back seat on the verge of tears.”
The doctors told Gelber the dog had consumed a massive amount of THC and needed to stay in the hospital overnight.
“We found out there had been a large summer yoga event in the park the day before I took her, so I suspect somebody just had a bag of dope that she consumed.”
Many people believe that dogs, just like humans, can benefit from the other active ingredient in cannabis, CBD. Just as CBD lattes and vapes for humans are soaring in popularity, companies such as Honest Paw claim their CBD dog treats are “perfect for anxious pups in tense situations”. So if you want to chill out with your dog, please do so responsibly.
Make a Tug Toy From Old Clothes. Does your dog love to play tug? Got some extra t-shirts lying around? Make your own toy by braiding one of your old t-shirts into a tug toy rather than throwing them out.