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Dogs high on marijuana on the rise

PHOENIX — A Valley animal hospital says it’s been seeing a dramatic increase in the number dogs being brought in for treatment because of exposure to marijuana.

“The case counts seem to be roughly doubling on a year to year basis,” said Billy Griswold, director of medical management for Emergency Animal Clinic.

He could not provide an exact number, but Griswold said they’re seeing an average of about two dozen cases every month between their five clinic locations in the Valley.

Griswold said the increase could coincide with the passage of medical marijuana in Arizona and the various ways to consume the drug.

“We have seen it over the years, you know, the case of ‘the dog ate my stash in the baggie,'” Griswold said. “We do see it as well with the synthetic marijuanas that are sold as potpourri or whatnot at smoke shops.”

Marijuana being baked into cookies or brownies can present hazards for dogs, as well as exposing them to marijuana smoke. Griswold said both have the potential to cause effects on canines.

Some of the common symptoms for dogs under the influence of marijuana include glassy eyes, stumbling or difficulty walking, and pupil dilation, according to Griswold. Severe symptoms include loss of consciousness, low heart rates, seizure and urinary incontinence.

Griswold said synthetic marijuana and natural marijuana can have different effects on dogs and those effects can last up to 48 hours.

“The good news in all this is that, natural marijuana at any rate is generally safe in the sense that we very rarely see fatalities associated with it,” he said. “Synthetic (marijuana) on the other hand, because they’re often manufactured overseas, we have seen some dogs with serious illness related to ingesting the synthetic marijuana or synthetics cannabinoids.”

He said synthetic marijuana has caused fatalities, and one dog had to spend a night on a ventilator.

“There’s not an antidote for marijuana,” he said. “If the exposure has been fairly recent … and we think there may be some still in the stomach, inducing vomiting can be helpful just for removing material from the stomach, and then beyond that treatment is typically just supportive and symptomatic.”

Griswold added that their priority is to treat the animal, not to enforce laws. He recommends that owners who think their pet might be exposed to marijuana to be honest with their veterinarian to save them from having to run tests and investigate what could be causing their symptoms.

“To be perfectly honest, we really don’t care what they do on their free time,” he said. “We just try and impress upon folks that in the long run it’s better for the pet and usually for your wallet to just own up to it so we can figure out what it is and react in the most specific way possible.”