Nausea, staggering, confusion: Dogs are getting sick from useless weed

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Last weekend, Lola Star’s dog Dazzle, a 2-year-old shy mini goldendoodle, ate a joint she found on the ground in Staten Island. It wasn’t the first or even the 10th time the dog had done this, Ms. Starr said with a long sigh.

He hadn’t seen it happen but it was a telltale sign. “I was getting her out of the car, and I noticed her head was shaking a little bit,” said Ms. Starr, who lives in the Prospect Park South neighborhood of Brooklyn. “That’s when you know your dog is stoned.”

Her dog isn’t the only inadvertent weed consumer. Now that marijuana is more widely available in New York City — after the city legalized adult recreational drug use in 2021 and opened the first legal dispensaries in December — veterinarians are saying they’ve seen a recent spike in the number of dog cases. There has been a steady rise in accidentally ingesting cannabis. And pet owners say their dogs are ingesting more cannabis in the streets and on sidewalks during walks.

Veterinarians who used to see one case a month now say they see several cases a week. Although most dogs recover, the symptoms can be frightening: loss of balance and difficulty walking, nausea, sleepiness and even hallucinations. And some owners do not immediately notice when their dog eats a small remnant of a joint during a walk.

Although dog owners are accustomed to keeping careless pets away from litter, food and other hazards on the sidewalk, weed is a new risk that is suddenly everywhere, Ms. Starr said. And so dogs like Dazzle get sick again and again.

“It’s always been a minor problem, but recently, we’re seeing an increase in cases now that marijuana is legalized here,” said Dr. Gabriel Fadl, director of primary care at Bond Vet, in New York. who have offices across the east coast.

There are no exact statistics on the number of dogs ingesting it on the street, but statistics show that they are getting sick from weed more often in places where recreational use is legal.

The trend isn’t exclusive to New York City. Over the past six years, calls about marijuana poisoning to the Pet Poison Helpline — a 24-hour animal poison control center — have increased more than 400 percent — with the most reported in New York and California. Last year, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control hotline fielded nearly 7,000 calls for marijuana poisoning, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.

Here’s what to do if this happens to your pet.

Veterinarians said they’ve seen cases of pets ingesting marijuana in various forms: flowers, discarded joints, edibles and even vape cartridges.

The best protection is to train your dog to leave those items alone. Experts say that when they do ingest a substance, the first step is to reach out to a poison help line or call your veterinarian’s office. (The help lines charge between $85 and $95 for a consultation.)

Tell them what happened, especially if the cannabis is yours. Details like THC strength can be helpful. It’s natural to feel scared or embarrassed, but don’t hold back the details, said Dr. Sarah Hogan of VCA California Veterinary Specialists.

Dr. Ryan Fortier, medical director of All Ears in downtown Brooklyn, said there is no clear test to confirm the dogs were intoxicated.

But there are some clear indications.

Dr Fadl said the behavior of a dog eating cannabis could be “quite dangerous”. The pet typically appeared “a little wobbly” and had difficulty balancing and walking, she said. They will also be very sleepy and will start dripping urine.

His eyes would probably be dilated, Dr. Hogan said. They may also be very startled or scared when touched, He added.

About an hour or two after ingestion, a dog’s vital signs — body temperature and heart rate — usually decrease, which can be dangerous, Dr. Fadl said.

Veterinarians stress that timing is critical. The sooner you get your dog to his vet, the more likely he is to have the toxin removed from his body by methods such as inducing vomiting or giving an enema.

The risk depends on the size of your dog and the amount of drug he has ingested.

Dr Fadl said treatment for most cases usually involves intravenous fluids and careful monitoring of vital signs.

“In general, the good news is that most dogs that have ingested marijuana will recover with treatment and sometimes without,” Dr. Fadl said.

But for particularly large doses of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis — such as when a small dog consumes food or candy — there may be a risk of heart arrhythmias or seizures, she said.

Dr. Hogan said people who deal with pets that have ingested THC should monitor them closely, keep them warm and keep them away from other animals.

He said there is a “low chance” of permanent neurological damage.

Kimberly Cruz, a dog trainer who also works as a vet assistant at Veterinary Care Group in Brooklyn, said that reinforcing the “leave it” and “leave it” commands will keep dogs off the city streets. Scavenging or moving to weeds in the future may help. encounters.

“If the dog likes to eat things off the ground,” she said, she recommends “a little leash and being aware of your surroundings, making sure you know you’re not on your cellphone.”

She also said to keep any marijuana products out of reach of recreational pets.

Lindsay Lamb, whose dogs Lulu and Murphy both accidentally ate joints while walking in her neighborhood of Prospect Park South, said she started telling people about the dangers of dumping their leftovers on the ground.

“I feel like people let them off thinking they’re organic,” Ms Lamb, 35, said. “I tell them I need to get them to the emergency room if this happens.”

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