Pubdate: Wed, 24 Jan 2018
Source: Okotoks Western Wheel (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018, Great West Newspapers
Author: Krista Conrad


Health: Veterinarian speaks out over dangers of drug, signs of 
intoxication in pets

Foothills veterinarians are expressing concerns animals could be
exposed to marijuana when the drug is legalized in July.

Dr. Tony Gerrow, at the Okotoks Veterinary Clinic, said he's seen
several cases of intoxicated dogs over his 35 years and anticipates
more with legalization looming.

"If there are marijuana products available to the pets, whether it's
accidental ingestion or it's second-hand smoke, I'm sure we're going
to see more of those cases," said Gerrow.

He said dogs and cats are both sensitive to marijuana and show signs
of heavy intoxication at lower exposure levels than humans.

"If you look at concentration of the active agent per body mass,
you've got say a 40-pound dog getting the same amount of smoke as an
80-pound human so it can be quite dramatic," said Gerrow.

Once marijuana is legal, it will be more readily available in many
homes and pets could have access to it, he said. He equated the
possible ramifications of marijuana legalization with the influx of
chocolate intoxications that occur with dogs around holidays like
Easter and Christmas.

The key will be prevention, he said.

"Keep it out of reach," said Gerrow. "If it's going to be smoked, keep
pets out of the immediate room at least. And watch for accidental
exposure - if you're very relaxed and you leave some of your stash on
the coffee table, you can expect your cat or dog to get into it."

Clinical signs of marijuana toxicity, overdose or ingestion are
similar to humans, he said. They include being weak, wobbly, or
disoriented. Symptoms sometimes include being hyper-excitable if
animals have not ingested marijuana before and suddenly lose control
of their senses, making them anxious, he said.

The result can sometimes be worse.

"One of my major situations in the past was when I had a large dog
become quite violent," said Gerrow. "The people were smoking hashish
and it got a good dose of that and hurt somebody because it was so
upset and didn't know what was going on. It just started lashing out."

One case last week involved a dog that consumed some containers and
wrappings used to make edible marijuana products in a home, he said.
It was brought to the Okotoks Veterinary Clinic for emergency
treatment in the middle of the night twice due to the effects of the
drug, Gerrow added.

It can get dangerous for the animal and expensive for the owners, who
are paying high vet bills to treat for exposure, he said.

Once an animal is brought to emergency, Gerrow said it can be a
challenge to get the owners to admit the truth about their dog being
exposed to drugs.

"It's sometimes hard to come to a diagnosis because we see a dog
that's wobbly and anxious and has behaviour abnormalities, panting, a
whole bunch of clinical signs that could be attributable to a number
toxins or other medical issues," said Gerrow.

The result, he said, is trying to determine whether dogs have had
seizures, are going into diabetic crisis, or have gotten into
something else.

"Then we go down the wrong pathway and it can lead to not only the pet
not being treated properly but it can also cost the owners more money
and tie up our precious time chasing wild geese," said Gerrow.

Some veterinarians have begun prescribing medical marijuana for pets
dealing with chronic pain or seizure activity, he said. While there
has been some use of it with positive effect, he said the results
haven't been medically proven - much like medical marijuana for humans.

"We're in medicine so we're not supposed to prescribe something that
hasn't been scientifically studied and proven to be beneficial, but
we're going into that area," said Gerrow. "Just the same as human
medicine, where some will prescribe it and others say it hasn't been
proven yet, we're in that ballpark as well."
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