Massachusetts dogs suffering from “cannabis toxicity” now that pot is legal

Photo: Fernando Trabanco Fotografía (Moment/Getty Images)

Pot enthusiasts are probably glad to have marijuana legal in Massachusetts, leading to new marijuana dispensaries throughout the state. But the plethora of pot has resulted in an unexpected and unfortunate side effect: “an increased caseload of emergencies involving dogs sickened by cannabis toxicity,” says The Cape Cod Times.

Since pot is now legal for recreational and medical uses, there is increased marijuana detritus left over in parks, for example, to say nothing of what people might have in their houses. One pet owner that the Times talked to said their dog ate a blunt found in the grass after a music festival. “Hours later, we thought he was having a stroke… He couldn’t walk, he was peeing everywhere and was hypersensitive to everything.” Other signs of impaired pets include walking with a drunken gait, dilated pupils, and paranoia—just like in humans. Dr. Daniel Hebert of Duxbury Animal Hospital “also noted dogs can also get hungry—‘the munchies’—toward the end of the episode.”

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While an Andy Capp-walking dog might be funny on a cartoon level, the medical professionals warn that pot toxicity can be very serious for dogs—since they’re smaller than humans, they can be impaired on a much more intense level. “It can be fatal, and that’s the scariest part,” veterinary nurse Brittany Knepper told The Times, because ingestion can cause respiratory suppression and low blood pressure, possibly leading to a fatality.” This article from a Texas veterinary group suggests that if you suspect your dog may have accidentally consumed marijuana, an over-the-counter human drug test—available at a pharmacy—would work to confirm the presence of the drug. After that, owners have a few options for emergency care depending on how severe their dogs’ symptoms are.

Fortunately, since pot is now legal in Massachusetts, pet owners afraid that their dog may have ingested marijuana no longer have to fear getting in trouble for possession if they bring their dog into the vet. “Nobody will get in trouble,” reassured Knepper. “We don’t care if you use pot.”

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About the author

Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.