CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —
As Terry D. Stevenson cradled her dog, Jesse, in her arms last Wednesday, she thought the worst.
It would turn out, the dog had ingested part of a marijuana joint while out for a walk, but at the time, Stevenson had no idea what was wrong with the dog, who could barely stand, with pupils dilated and head lolling.
“I thought she was having some kind of a seizure or something. It really scared me.”
Now, she hopes sharing her story will help others avoid a similar scare.
While data isn’t collected in Canada, a 2019 report from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said the Animal Poison Control Centre saw a 765 per cent increase in calls related to marijuana poisoning in the first few months of the year compared to the same period in 2018.
Dr. Jenine Daley, a veterinarian at the Atlantic Veterinary College, has noticed an increase, she said.
“Certainly, we’ve been seeing it as long as people have been using it recreationally, but I think there is a higher prevalence since legalization in Canada.”
Often, pet owners are unaware of any exposure — or don’t disclose it — which makes it hard to diagnose, as the symptoms can indicate other toxicities.
In most cases, pets will have ingested small quantities and Daley will recommend owners to observe their pets in a low-stimulus environment with access to food and water.
“The big danger is if they’re exposed at higher concentrations,” said Daley, “and then in those types of cases, which we classify as more severe, they can experience seizure activity or coma and then those cases often require hospitalization and supportive care.”
Those higher concentrations often come from ingested edibles, though even in those high dose cases, there don’t seem to be any long-term effects and rarely results in death.
A recent trend has seen owners treating their pets with various CBD treatments, which is a safer component of marijuana than THC.
In Canada, vets can’t prescribe CBD treatments, though there is a lot of ongoing research, said Daley.
“It will likely change quite a bit over the next number of years and probably we will have the ability to prescribe veterinary-type CBD products.”
To keep pets safe, Daley recommends people to keep their dogs on a leash when out for a walk and to treat marijuana like other medications which could pose a danger to pets by keeping them in airtight containers away from where pets may be able to find them.
Stevenson called Southport Animal Hospital, but the wait was too long, so she called the AVC and took Jesse in for an emergency appointment.
The vet told Stevenson they suspected marijuana poisoning, which surprised Stevenson.
Her best guess was Jesse found it on the trail earlier that morning, though the dog made no indication before getting home, she said.
“I didn’t see anything except she stuck her nose in the snow once in a while.”
Still, she was thankful that’s all it was, she said.
“At that point, having a marijuana poisoning was a good thing because they could deal with it.”
The vets induced vomiting and, sure enough, Jesse puked up the butt of a joint.
Jesse was kept until 6 p.m., but wasn’t herself until the following morning, said Stevenson.
“The next day I was so relieved because I really worried that night even that, I didn’t know whether there would be psychological damage, that it’s a trauma and she’s just weird then, but she’s good now.”
Stevenson said she hopes in telling her story, users and pet owners may be more careful around marijuana.
“I’m just shocked. I did not expect this and I think most people I know wouldn’t have thought this could happen. I mean, you just don’t think about that kind of stuff.”
Despite the bad rap muzzles get, Stevenson has one ordered for Jesse to protect her from getting her nose into things she shouldn’t.
In the meantime, they will be avoiding the Confederation Trail, opting for other, less used paths around Charlottetown.