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Encore: Legal Marijuana Is A Danger To Dogs


A story now about dogs. The health hazards for our best friends are many - ticks, cars, lots of chocolate. But there's another danger that may not be on your radar yet. Here is an encore broadcast of a report from Laura Klivans of member station KQED. She first learned about this danger in her very own living room in San Francisco.


LAURA KLIVANS: I came home from work one night to an unmistakable absence. Our brown-and-white pit bull Maizey was not at the top of the stairs to greet me. Instead, she was in her bed, shaky and confused. When I tried to get her up, she stumbled.


KLIVANS: At the vet, they ran some tests. I got a $300 bill and a diagnosis - Maizey the dog got high.


AFROMAN: (Singing) Because I got high, because I got high, because I got high. La, da, da, da, da, da.

KLIVANS: She'd probably eaten some marijuana. And it turns out, she's not the only accidental hash puppy.


GERALD: Thank you for calling Animal Internal Medicine. This is Gerald. How can I help you?

KLIVANS: At this San Francisco clinic near Golden Gate Park, Dr. Dorrie Black sees a lot of high dogs. Weed's legal in California.

DORRIE BLACK: You definitely are going to see a few a month, for sure. But in the summer, we often see about three a week.

KLIVANS: Here's what she looks out for.

BLACK: One, they do have a dazed or glazed look in their eyes. Often, owners report that they're wobbly, or what we call ataxic. And then they also often urinate a lot, uncontrollably.

KLIVANS: But it's not like Fido is intentionally getting baked.

BLACK: Dogs will get into anything and everything.

KLIVANS: Like eating the end of a joint on the sidewalk or, more likely, edibles they find at home. And with many people living on the streets in the Bay Area, dogs are ingesting drugs through human poop.

BLACK: Dogs love that scent. To them, it's perfume.

KLIVANS: We're pretty sure that's what happened to Maizey. She spent a little too long in the park bushes that morning.

Dr. John de Jong is the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. He's based in Massachusetts, one of 10 states where recreational and medical pot is legal.

JOHN DE JONG: In those states that have legalized marijuana, we are seeing an increased incidence of marijuana toxicity in pets, especially in dogs.

KLIVANS: This kind of call to ASPCA's National Animal Poison Control Center has increased sevenfold since last year, not only because of legalization, but also because weed products now have higher levels of THC.

DE JONG: The THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana that gets people high, is the one that's actually toxic to dogs.

KLIVANS: Even though THC is toxic, none of the vets I spoke to for this story have ever seen an animal die from it. Here's Dr. Black again.

BLACK: There's nothing about that actual drug itself that will kill them.

KLIVANS: But a dog could get so high that it inhales its own vomit. So she urges caution.

BLACK: If you do not know the quantity that they got into, I'm always going to recommend that you go to your vet.

KLIVANS: Maybe they'll pump your dog's stomach or, if it's not as serious, let them ride out the high.

Former emergency vet Ben Otten jokes about what he used to tell pet owners.

BEN OTTEN: OK. We're going to take your dog in. We're going to put him in a quiet room. You know, we're going to play some Led Zeppelin for him and give him some Doritos, and then you can come pick him up in the morning.


KLIVANS: In Maizey's case, she wasn't dangerously high, so the vet didn't need to keep her for observation. He sent us all home and told us simply to keep a close eye for the next day or two on our sweet, stoned pooch.

For NPR News, I'm Laura Klivans in San Francisco.


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