Legalized cannabis is having a great effect on Canadian dogs as veterinary clinics across the country are seeing a significant increase in the number of dogs carried stoned to potted products.
Flaky, reduced by light and sound and often incontinent and howling, animals are rushed for treatment after smearing pot brownies and other unattended foods or after receiving medicinal marijuana from their owners.
"We are witnessing an absolute increase," says Dr. Ian Sandler, member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association national issues committee.
"And this is all over Canada," says Sandler, who is also CEO of Toronto's Gray Wolf Animal Health.
He says the anecdotal reports of many Canadian veterinarians have indicated a large increase in the number of dogs treated for cannabis emergencies.
But it also indicates a report published in August by a Minnesota pet poisoning help line that showed a significant increase in the number of Canadian owners asking for pot-related emergencies – 90% of which involved stoned dogs.
Only 64 Canadian cases were registered by the center throughout 2018, while 54 were reported only in the first seven months of 2019.
"So this is not just anecdotal, now we actually have evidence to show that there is a significant increase in inappropriate ingestion mainly among dogs," says Sandler.
Although the overall numbers are not yet available, a recent survey by the Star on some of the largest emergency and mental health centers in the country showed no corresponding increase human cases reported by the legalization of last October have been initiated.
"It's certainly something we're very worried about and we want to watch," said Robert Mann, a senior scientist and compromise expert at Toronto's Center for Addiction and Mental Health.
"But I heard nothing, no indication that suddenly there is a big increase."
Sandler, however, claims to have seen more canine cannabis cases in his Front St. E practice since October.
"We have seen an increase in mainly mild cases, fortunately, but we have seen an increase in some more serious cases," he says.
Dr. Jory Bocknek, an Aurora veterinarian, states that the increase in the number of cannabis cases he saw was "monumental" in its field of application.
"It went from something exceptionally rare to something common," says Bocknek, who practices at the Abbotsford Animal Hospital north of Toronto.
"It's not even thin," he says.
Bocknek states that many of the overdoses probably originate in the backpacks of high schoolers who hide their hiding places just to let their pets fish.
Sandler states that many of the emergencies emerge from well-meaning owners who treat their aching or anxious animals with medicinal marijuana which may contain levels of the plant's psychoactive THC component that overwhelm their dog's inexperienced brain.
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More dangerous, however, are accidents in which animals drag neglected protected goods that are often heavy in chocolate, macadamia nuts and other ingredients that can be toxic to dogs and cats, he says.
"So suddenly you almost look like a toxic cannabis transporter," says Sandler.
"Being very, very high on these THC products in combination with some compounds that can be deadly – especially chocolate – for animals, that's the problem."
Sandler states that some dogs also seem to be attracted to the smell of cannabis and that there have been several cases where the puppies have sniffed and ate the ends of the discarded joints during their walks.
Cats, which are often home-related, may be sensitive to second-hand smoke if their owners choose to shine inside, he adds.
As with humans, cannabis overdoses – chocolate-free and other seasoning considerations – will rarely prove fatal to dogs or cats.
And like humans, the treatment for stoned animals generally begins with encouraging vomiting, says Sandler. Animals, usually hospitalized, are often monitored for temperature and subjected to fluid therapies when required.
To stem the assault of stoned animals, Sandler states that his association would like animal warnings to be added to legal products, prompting owners to remember their pets and store edible products safely out of the reach of rover. Such warnings will become even more urgent as the legal food market opens at the end of the year, he says.
He says his association would also like the federal government to guarantee veterinarians the ability to issue or recommend cannabis-based remedies, which they are currently unable to do.
"There is currently no legal route for pet owners to actually get cannabis for their pets," says Sandler.
"So … people are trying to self-medicate their pets."