Colo. Vets Warn of Edible Marijuana Threat to Pets

Dogs are main concern at 97 percent of cases.

ByABC News
February 27, 2014, 1:48 PM

Feb. 27, 2014— -- Vets at clinics and emergency hospitals in Colorado are reporting more pets than ever are being brought in suffering from marijuana poisoning after eating pot-laced edibles.

Bri Pasko from the VRCC Emergency Hospital in Englewood, Colo. told ABC News since the state passed medical marijuana licenses, they’ve seen an increase from an "occasional" incident to between 2-3 cases of pets accidentally eating pot edibles a week.

Pasko said 97 percent of those cases involve dogs.

"They are so curious and have such strong noses," said Pasko.

Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald of the VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital cited similar numbers in his clinic in Denver. Although VCA has previously seen two cases of an iguana and a turtle separately binging on their owners’ pot stashes, it’s mainly dogs that get into edibles, he said.

Since 2010, Fitzgerald said it has grown from roughly two cases a month to one every other day. While it’s too early to tell if the incidences of pot poisoning among pets has specifically become worse since Colorado legalized pot on Jan. 1, he has definitely seen a rise in recent months.

Most edibles are prepared like any other food, except that cannabis oil is added to the recipe. Though they contain high doses of the chief psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, they often taste similar to any regular sweet treat.

With more pot-laced edibles on the market than ever -- from chai mints to chocolate truffles and even beef jerky -- it's no wonder dogs are having a field day, getting sick while their noses are stuffed in THC-laden truffle boxes.

Dilated eyes, hyper salivation and appearing drunk are all symptoms that your pet might have chewed their way through marijuana products, vets said. Eaten in high levels it could lead to seizure. At even higher levels, vets said, it can result in death.

"The problem is a person will have one brownie, but a dog gets up on the counter and eat the whole tray," said Fitzgerald. "Their natural instinct is to gorge."

With an average 45-50 pound dog, it also takes much longer for the pot to exit the system, saidFitzgerald. For a person that would probably be 24-26 hours, but in a dog it can be up to three or four days.

But it's not just the active THC drug in baked goods that hurts animals.

Pasko said that in high doses, everyday chocolate in brownies or cookies can also be dangerous and is generally toxic for dogs, particularly milk chocolate.

The best way to avoid exposure is simply to hide the edibles from the pets in a very secure, air-tight place, vets said.

A call to the vet or local poison center is recommended if you suspect your pet has eaten pot edibles.

“There’s no antidote for marijuana,” said Fitzgerald. "The only way we treat is just be supportive, we watch for seizure and measure body temp and then put them on fluids to try and expel it quicker."

ABC News' SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES contributed to this report.