The worrying rise in 'stoner dogs': A brief guide

In states where marijuana is legal, vets are seeing a staggering rise in dogs getting sick from pot

Stoner dogs
(Image credit: ThinkStock/iStockphoto)

Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado for 12 years, and many people believe that using the drug for medicinal purposes can be beneficial. But according to a new study, one unintended side effect of legalized pot is a spike in the number of pets who get sick after accidentally ingesting the drug. The study, conducted by Dr. Stacy Meola of the Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital, concluded that cases of marijuana poisoning in animals quadrupled in Colorado over the past five years, and vets say treating high dogs has become an increasingly common occurrence. Doping up your dog is no laughing matter — marijuana can cause your pet to get very sick or, in severe cases, die. Here's why you should keep pot away from your pooch:

What exactly does pot do to dogs?

After ingesting marijuana, dogs often get sick, act lethargic, and start staggering and vomiting. They may also become overly sensitive to sound and light. "They basically [lose] a lot of their fine motor control, they have a wide-based stance and they are not sure on their feet," Dr. Debbie Van Pelt, a Colorado veterinarian, told CBS 4 in Denver. "Sometimes they fall into a coma," says CBS 4. "It's the doggie equivalent of a 'bad trip.'"

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How are pets getting a hold of the drug?

Mostly through their owners' negligence, unfortunately. According to Dr. Meola, dogs most commonly end up ingesting their owners' baked goods, which are made with marijuana butter and sold at dispensaries. While pets are at risk of getting sick from inhaling marijuana smoke, Meola says that the marijuana-infused butter is presumably more toxic to the dogs than other forms of the drug: She saw two dogs die after eating baked goods made with medical-grade butter.

How can I prevent my dog from getting sick from pot?

First and foremost, keep your pot far away from the paws of your pet. "[Marijuana] needs to be treated like any other drug," Meola says. "If you came home with a prescription for Vicodin from your doctor, you wouldn't just leave it sitting there." Furthermore, if you suspect your pet might be sick from the drug, honesty is always the best policy. Many vets say owners are reluctant to admit that pot could be the cause, and they jeopardize their pet's health by not coming clean. If pot is even a possible factor in your dog's illness, tell the vet right away so they can properly treat the animal.

Sources: CBS 4, Gawker, New York Daily News

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