Nausea, Wobbles, Confusion: Dogs get sick from discarded weed
On a recent weekend, Lola Star’s dog Dazzle, a mini golddoodle, just under 2 years old, 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. Star said with a long sigh.
She hadn’t seen it, but there was a telltale sign. “I got her out of the car and saw her little head shaking,” said Ms. Star, who lives in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park South neighborhood. “That’s when you know your dog is stoned.”
Your dog isn’t the only unknowing weed consumer. Now that marijuana is rampant in New York City — after the city legalized adult recreational use of the drug in 2021 and opened its first legal dispensary in December — veterinarians say they’ve seen a steady rise in canine cases lately found accidentally eating cannabis products. And pet owners say their dogs are encountering more dropped cannabis when walking the streets and sidewalks.
Vets who used to see a case once a month now say they see several a week. Although most dogs recover, the symptoms can be frightening: loss of balance and difficulty walking, nausea, drowsiness, and even hallucinations. And some owners don’t see it immediately when their dog eats a small piece of a joint on a walk.
Though dog owners are used to keeping curious pets away from trash, food and other sidewalk hazards, weeds are a new hazard that’s suddenly everywhere, Ms Star said. And so dogs like Dazzle keep getting sick.
“It’s always been a bit of an issue, but lately we’re seeing an uptick in cases where marijuana has been legalized here,” said Dr. Gabrielle Fadl, primary care manager at Bond Vet, which has offices all over the east coast.
More about cannabis
As recreational marijuana becomes legal in several states, cannabis products are becoming more readily available and more diverse.
There are no exact figures on the number of dogs that pick it up on the street, but data shows that they are more likely to get weed sick in places where recreational use is legal.
The trend isn’t exclusive to New York City. In the past six years, there has been a more than 400 percent increase in marijuana poisoning calls to the Pet Poison Helpline, a 24-hour animal poison control center — with most being reported in New York and California. Last year, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Hotline received nearly 7,000 calls about marijuana toxicity, an 11 percent increase from the previous year.
Here’s what to do if it happens to your pet.
Call a veterinarian or a poison control number.
Vets said they’ve seen cases of pets eating marijuana in a variety of forms: flower, discarded joints, edibles, and even vape cartridges.
The best protection is to teach your dog to leave these items alone. If they do get into the substance, the first step is to contact a poison control number or call your vet’s office, experts say. (The hotlines charge between $85 and $95 for a consultation.)
Let them know what happened, especially if the cannabis is yours. The details, like THC strength, might be helpful. It’s natural to feel anxious or even embarrassed, but don’t hold back on the details, said Dr. Sarah Hoggan of VCA California Veterinary Specialists.
Loss of balance and dilated pupils can be symptoms.
There’s no definitive test to confirm if dogs are drunk, said Dr. Ryan Fortier, the medical director of All Ears in downtown Brooklyn.
But there are some clear signs.
dr Fadl said the behavior of a dog that has eaten cannabis can be “quite alarming”. In general, the pet appears “a bit wobbly” and has trouble balancing and walking, she said. You will also likely be quite sleepy and dribbling urine.
Your eyes will likely be dilated, said Dr. hoggan. They may also be very startled or frightened when touched, She added.
About an hour or two after ingestion, a dog’s vital signs — body temperature and heart rate — usually drop, which can be dangerous, said Dr. bland
Vets stressed that timing was key. The sooner you take your dog to the vet, the better chance there is of removing the toxin from his body through methods such as inducing vomiting or giving an enema.
Don’t worry: most dogs recover.
The risks depend on the size of your dog and the amount of medication he has consumed.
dr Fadl said that in most cases, treatment typically involved intravenous fluids and careful monitoring of vital signs.
“In general, the good news is that most dogs that use marijuana are fine with treatments and sometimes without,” said Dr. bland
But at particularly high doses of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis — such as when a small dog consumes fortified food or candy — it can cause an abnormal heart rhythm or seizures, she said.
dr Hoggan said those dealing with THC-consuming pets should monitor them closely, keep them warm, and keep them away from other animals.
There’s a “low probability” of permanent neurological damage, she added.
Best practices to avoid accidentally high times.
Kimberlee Cruz, a dog trainer who also works as a vet assistant at Brooklyn’s Veterinary Care Group, said reinforcing the “let it” and “drop it down” commands could help dogs, which tend to clean up city streets or getting into the garbage in future weed encounters.
“If the dog likes to eat things off the floor,” she said, she recommended “a short leash and be aware of your surroundings so you know you’re not on your phone.”
She also said all marijuana products should be placed out of the reach of enterprising pets.
Lindsay Lamb, whose dogs Lulu and Murphy both accidentally ate joints while walking their neighborhood in Prospect Park South, said she’s started teaching people the dangers of throwing their leftovers on the ground.
“I feel like people will drop them and think they’re biological,” said Ms. Lamb, 35. “I’m telling them if it happens, I’ll have to take them to the emergency room.”