Of pot and pets - The Orca

Of pot and pets

Jody w Glasses 1

Jody Vance: Cannabis is legal for adults – and that’s good. But it’s dangerous for pets, who are increasingly finding (and eating) used products, and getting very sick.

The Middle is going a little Cheech and Chong today. Up in smoke, if you will.

Yes, cannabis is the topic at hand today, which warrants a DISCLAIMER: in no way does this column make any statement for or against the consumption of cannabis. 

Today’s Middle is about the byproduct of consuming cannabis – and its impacts on our pets. Roaches and cast-offs from pipes, or edibles being left unsecured around parks and school grounds – the common thread here is places people walk their dogs. It’s having massive and unimaginably stressful unintended consequences for our four-legged friends.

Over the last few weeks I’ve hit double-digits of fellow dog lovers rushing their canines to the vet for emergency care with THC toxicity. The dogs ate some pot, somewhere, somehow, on their regular walk. BAM: emergency

The message is for consumers of cannabis: smoke ‘em if you got ‘em – but please, dispose of the roach responsibly. Make sure your edibles are on lockdown.

There is a perfect storm brewing during these crazy COVID times, with pandemic puppies (read: rookie dog owners) everywhere and people hitting local parks and fields to safely socialize and partake in the consumption of said substance.

With full legalization of cannabis there was (thankfully) no full-blown societal Armageddon for adults. It’s on us all to teach kids about any controlled substance, so when having that conversation, add in the bit about the dogs. Every day, it becomes more clear that how we dispose of roaches matters.

No one wants to rush their pet to the vet. One friend in particular, Cathy Tostenson, tells of two terrifying tales with her beautiful dogs Mia and Wilson. Most recently, after walking through North Shore parks and trails, Wilson was acting out of sorts. He was listless, his breathing laboured — and so much more. Off to the ER.

Wilson’s care began with identifying that he was suffering from THC toxicity.

Dr. Alastair Westcott, medical director at Mountainside 24-hour Emergency Animal Clinic, sees this trend growing at an alarming rate.

“Since legalization we have certainly seen a rise in instances, and during COVID 19 we are seeing a steady increase in our clinic.”

At the time Wilson was admitted, there were no fewer than six other dogs in their care, sick from THC.

Dr. Westcott wants to stress the importance of getting your pup to the vet immediately if you see any unusual behaviour; symptoms vary from dog to dog, as does the outcome. Thankfully, with professional treatment and monitoring, the outcome is most often survival without major long-term issues…but with tainted drugs, there are exceptions. Dr. Westcott is seeing THC tests come back laced with fentanyl and cocaine.

Mountainside has seen these cases increase approximately 15% – 20% since full legalization. Increases in vet trips hits the pet parent in their wallet as well. Insurance claims are skyrocketing. Pet insurance provider Trupanion has already paid more than $250,000 in marijuana toxicity related claims in North America.

If your heart can take it, here’s a video of Wilson’s journey at Mountainside Emergency.

With many of us looking for big spaces and fewer faces to take our pups, it shouldn’t be surprising the same goes for those heading out to safely enjoy their Cannabis Dispensary wares.

The Middle here is that we must address the Hansel and Gretel pot-crumb path our pooches are finding and unknowingly consuming.

The ask in this Middle is for you to help. Please send me (actually editor@theorca.ca) your sign slogan ideas for municipalities to consider installing at places pot consumers and dog walkers both enjoy.

Brainstorming with Cathy Tostenson, we surmised that we need signs so savvy – so exceptional – that even the cool cannabis set might want one for their wall. Think “Dude Chilling Park.”

The goal is to raise awareness quickly – and most importantly, does not chastise. A simple and clear message to reach those who might unknowingly be putting sweet pets at risk.

My first ideas were…well, I’m looking for better.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.