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‘It was terrifying’: Why legalization may be increasing pot’s perils to pets

Click to play video: 'Pot and pets: B.C. veterinarian seeing spike in THC toxicity cases since legalization' Pot and pets: B.C. veterinarian seeing spike in THC toxicity cases since legalization
A North Vancouver dog owner says it's 'high time' for change after both her pets became sick from accidentally ingesting pot in the last year. Kristen Robinson has more on why one vet says he's seeing an increase in THC toxicity cases - and the advice for cannabis connoisseurs who like to consume outdoors – Mar 21, 2021

A B.C. dog owner says it’s “high time” for cannabis users to be more responsible after both her pets became sick from ingesting pot in separate incidents 14 months apart – in what one veterinarian calls a dangerous and emerging trend since legalization.

Click to play video: 'Puppy collapses after ingesting THC on morning walk' Puppy collapses after ingesting THC on morning walk
Puppy collapses after ingesting THC on morning walk – Jan 18, 2019

“It was terrifying and very, very upsetting,” dog owner Cathy Tostenson said of the latest scare three weeks ago.

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Tostenson had returned home from walking her two golden retrievers on the Hastings Creek Trail behind North Vancouver’s Ross Road Elementary when one of them quickly became ill.

“Within about an hour we started to notice that Wilson wasn’t himself,” Tostenson told Global News.

Read more: Vancouver SPCA issues warning after puppy seriously sickened by pot

Normally, the five-year-old dog can’t get enough food – but he wasn’t interested in eating.

“I called Wilson over for a snack. He was on the couch, and his head was swaying from side to side,” recalled Tostenson.

“He was very disoriented.”

Within an hour of accidentally ingesting pot on a walk, Wilson’s owner says he was suddenly lethargic and eventually fell off the couch. Cathy Tostenson

When Wilson fell as he tried to get up from the couch, she knew his sudden lethargy required emergency treatment.

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“We had seen the same situation happen with our dog Mia the year before,” Tostenson said.

They rushed Wilson to Mountainside Animal Hospital, which provides 24/7 emergency veterinary services.

Tostenson’s son carried the seventy-five-pound or thirty-four-kilogram dog inside – where the staff ran a rapid response drug test.

“You could see Wilson, he was shaking, he was trembling – and he could barely stand on his own feet,” Tostenson told Global News.

Wilson had ingested THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical compound found in cannabis.

Click to play video: 'Veterinarians seeing more cases of dogs eating pot' Veterinarians seeing more cases of dogs eating pot
Veterinarians seeing more cases of dogs eating pot – Sep 23, 2019

The psychoactive ingredient can cause balance and breathing problems, irregular heartbeat, incontinence, or worse, in dogs.

Mountainside medical director Dr. Alastair Westcott said canines have 10 times as many cannabinoid receptors in their brains, which means the effects of cannabis are more severe and potentially more toxic when compared to humans.

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Two-year-old Mia suffered the same experience as Wilson when she was 12 months old.

“It is just so upsetting,” said Tostenson.

“They don’t understand what is going on.”

Wilson had a mild to moderate case according to Westcott, who said treatment included inducing him to vomit, using charcoal to absorb any leftover poison in his system, and placing him on IV fluids.

Tostenson says her pet was the sixth dog treated for the same situation by her vet that day.

Since cannabis was legalized in October 2018, Mountainside Animal Hospital said it has seen an up to 20 per cent spike in incidents of THC toxicity in pets – or about two to five cases per week.

“People are much more open with smoking in public and in parks,” Westcott said, and dogs are unfortunately drawn to the scent of discarded pot – especially edibles.

“They’re not really thinking about what they’re doing with their roach or the end of their cigarette – and in parks especially, it’s very easy to just drop it on the path.”

Read more: West Kelowna puppy became seriously ill after eating marijuana in park: couple

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Wilson is now back to normal after the long and painful trip he didn’t need to take.

“He was just out of it, and in fact, it took him 18 hours to fully recover,” Tostenson told Global News.

Wilson’s owner is urging pot smokers and partakers of edibles to properly dispose of their leftover high – so it’s not passed on to any unsuspecting pets.

“Take it with you, you have a responsibility to pick up and take your roaches or edibles with you,” pleaded Tostenson.

“We need to do it for our beloved pets.”

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