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USA: Marijuana Use Is on the Rise … Among Dogs and Cats

USA: Marijuana Use Is on the Rise … Among Dogs and Cats
/ Chris Roberts / 12,27,2011

Like their humans, animals are known to consume marijuana. In fact, many have long known that pot producers in the northern counties deer-proof their marijuana plants, else docile does and bucks will chew on the buds and leaves. This author once knew a parrot who liked to consume cured bud, as well as stems and seeds, and would actually seek out these mood-altering treats.

Perhaps all this sounds surprising until you stumble across this fact: There’s been an increase in marijuana use among dogs, cats, and other domestic pets, according to a report out of Colorado.

Since the legalization of medical marijuana in Colorado, there’s been a dramatic "spike" in the number of furry companions being rushed to the vet after mistakenly (or happily?) consuming marijuana, according to a report in the Durango Herald. Vets reported a 30-fold increase in these cases — and it’s not likely to abate, as long as the threat of the semi-legal devil medicine is among us. "Dogs love the stuff," one vet told the newspaper.


The good news is that this is a relatively benign epidemic. According to a study performed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’s Animal Poison Control Center, only two deaths out of 250 pet pot cases have been reported — a cat and a horse, both of whom had other outstanding medical issues.

The ASPCA’s study is a dated, but if we are allowed to extrapolate, dogs are much more likely to go for an owners’ stash, be it a plate of brownies or a bag of bud: About 96 percent of cases involve dogs, while cats are busted munching marijuana only 3 percent of the time. All other pets comprised 1 percent of the total number of cases.

Typical signs of marijuana exposure in pets are loss of muscle control, agitation and anxiety, excessive vocalization, dizziness and confusion, extreme lethargy, and reactions to sounds that may resemble seizures — and in some cases, loss of bladder control. Heh.

In Colorado, most cases stem from a dog chowing down on marijuana-laced food, though the ASCPA did report one case of a Fido eating three grams of raw bud.

Here in San Francisco, there have been reports of "dog owners blowing smoke in their pets’ faces," according to Animal Care and Control Director Rebecca Katz. On one recent occasion, Katz said she received a complaint as part of a "domestic dispute." However, Katz says she can’t think of a time when the city has intervened and removed a marijuana-using mutt from a household, or levied fines on their laissez-faire humans.

Katz recommended SF Weekly try local vet clinics to see if pet pot use is on the rise here, too. We contacted several local — and respectable — veterinary clinics, but they did not immediately respond to requests for comment. However, we did get some answers from San Francisco vet Eric Barchas, who has on his website an entire entry dedicated to the subject, entitled "Marijuana Intoxication in Cats and Dogs."

Poisoning or intoxication caused by marijuana resembles poisoning by other substances, Barchas writes; the difference is that marijuana intoxication runs its course in a few hours, and the regimen of treatment is usually nothing more invasive than "nursing the pet and preventing anxiety," Barchas writes.

Pets may become dehydrated if they’re too ripped to remember how to drink water, but other than that, "Serious, long-term health consequences and fatality from marijuana intoxication are essentially unheard of," Barchas notes.

However, there is a risk of poisoning from chocolate if the dog’s method of medicating was a chocolate-laden brownie, Katz told SF Weekly.

So should you get your pet stoned? Probably not. But if Spot does snack on your bud at home, just do as any stoned human would: Dim the lights, lower the volume on the stereo, and let your dog chill out.

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