AUBURN, Wash. — The legalization of recreational marijuana has at least one set of unintended consequences — doggie overdoses — and emergency veterinary clinics in the Seattle area are reporting an increase in cases.
The same dog that can chew on your shoes if you don't put them up can sniff out a pot purchase in an instant. In a busy month, emergency clinics have treated up to 30 new cases.
"A busy week, I've seen 10 to 12 cases," said Dr. Nathanial Stewart of VCA Pacific Avenue Animal Hospital in Tacoma, Wash. "I saw a beagle once that ate an entire Ziploc baggie full of marijuana buds."
Last week, 14-week-old Monkus, a dachshund-terrier mix, arrived at Affordable Animal Emergency Clinic here.
She was "lying in her own vomit, shaking," her owner Aleah Helmbrecht said. "Her eyes were bright red. ... She was wobbly and couldn't stand up right."
Like any puppy, Monkus loves to eat anything she finds, but Helmbrecht never figured that Monkus had found her aunt's cannabis.
"(You could) also smell from her breath that it smelled like marijuana," Dr. Ruby Donnaway said. "There are weeks where we're pretty much seeing it every single night."
Voters in both Washington state and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use in referendums in November with sales to begin in January. Both states previously authorized certain patients to use marijuana for medical reasons.
Monkus received medication that forced her to vomit as well as activated liquid charcoal to help absorb the poisons in her system and help her pass any remaining plant particles.
Donnaway estimates her clinic has seen the number of tetrahydrocannabinol-positive animals double in the past year. That's the active ingredient in cannabis, better known as THC.
Dogs are most often the victims; cats appear to be a bit more discerning in their diets.
"I don't know if it's an increase in the amount of cases or people are more willing to let us know," Donnaway said.
Veterinarians expect the problem to grow as the edible market diversifies. Products already include far more options than brownies — and chocolate alone offers its own problems for dogs.
"Any infused product should be treated as a medicine, not as a baked good to be hanging around," said Stephanie Viskovich, owner of Delta 9 nonprofit marijuana collective in Seattle. Make sure that kids who love cookies know these aren't their snacks, too.
For dogs, the lethal pot dose is 3 grams per kilogram of animal weight, Donnaway said.
"It can trigger seizures, coma, or even death," Stewart said.
Most animal THC cases, like problems with dogs eating chocolate, can be treated if the symptoms are caught early, veterinarians say. They recommend that owners bring their pets to a vet immediately if they suspect marijuana toxicity.
Helmbrecht's aunt, a cancer patient, smokes marijuana to help with her treatment. Now, the pup's entire family practices better cannabis control.