Pet poisonings involving marijuana – specifically, the ingestion of pot via bong water or edibles – are on the rise, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
NBC News reports that, according to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center division, calls reporting pet poisonings by marijuana have increased by 30 percent since 2009, from 213 calls that year to 320 in 2013.
Dr. Monika Kaelble, medical director of the Pet Emergency and Specialty Care Center in San Diego’s La Mesa community, told NBC 7 San Diego on Tuesday that her practice sees cases of cannibis poisonings quite frequently, at least once per week.
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“We certainly do see a lot of marijuana poisoning. I think it’s on the rise because we now have legalization of medical marijuana, and it’s more prevalent,” said Kaelble.
“It’s not something that people think of that much. I don’t think people think their dog is going to get into marijuana but dogs love to eat things, and that’s definitely on the list,” she added.
Kaelble said her practice sees enough cases to spot the symptoms in a pooch suffering from pot poisoning, which usually includes staggering and sensitivity to sounds and lights.
"Most dogs come in kind of drunk-looking, acting very abnormally," she explained. "In most cases the dog has eaten a brownie or baked good. Secondarily, they may eat a stash or joint."
Kaelble said she rarely sees cases involving poisoning from owners purposely blowing secondhand smoke into a dog's face.
"We don't typically see deliberate poisonings, thankfully pet owners love their pets. Usually the pets are getting into something [in these pot poisoning cases]," she explained.
Kaelble said the smaller the dog, the sicker they get from ingesting marijuana.
Treatment at her practice includes giving the four-legged patient IV fkuids to flush out its system or activated charcoal to help bind the drug if vets think the drug is still in the dog's stomach.
"Usually, within 24 to 48 hours, they're back to normal again," she said.
Animal Poison Control Center director Dr. Tina Wismer says dogs, in particular, don’t react the same way as humans to marijuana. While some may become “sedated” or “wobbly,” Wismer told NBC News that some dogs experience agitation and high heart rates, resulting in distress.
“Most dogs become incontinent,” Wismer said. “They stagger around dribbling urine everywhere.”
The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center says marijuana – namely the Delta-9-THC element in the plant – is toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Signs of pot poisoning in a pet also include prolonged depression, vomiting, lack of coordination, sleepiness, hypersalivation, dilated pupils, low body temperature, seizure, coma, or, even in some rare cases, death.
If a dog experiences soaring blood pressure as a result of pot poisoning and goes without treatment, a dog can go into a coma and die.
Poisoning experts say bong water is one way for pets to ingest the active ingredients in marijuana. They could also eat marijuana leaves or edibles, such as pot brownies or cookies.
Wismer says marijuana butter used to make these baked goods can be especially dangerous to pets who may eat them thinking they may be treats.
“People put weed and a stick of butter in a sauce pan and the fat soluble cannabinoids leech into the butter creating a much higher concentration of THC,” she explained.
Brownies may be twice as dangerous for dogs, too, since chocolate is one of the leading causes of dog poisonings, according to the ASPCA.
Chocolate, a heart and nervous system stimulant in dogs, can cause hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, panting, tremors, seizures and even death in extreme cases.
As marijuana becomes more legally prevalent and people learn of its danger to dogs, Kaelble said she thinks owners will become more astute about hiding their pot away from a pet's reach.
"A lot of it is public awareness of the problem," said Kaelble.
The ASPCA says pet owners who think their dog or pet may have ingested marijuana should contact their local veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.