Vets see increase in pets poisoned by pot products since rec mar - KPTV - FOX 12

Vets see increase in pets poisoned by pot products since rec marijuana became legal

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Since the legalization of recreational marijuana, Portland-area animal hospitals have seen a significant increase in pets poisoned by exposure to THC.

For Andy Healy, it started with a quiet walk in the woods with her dog, Fen. After taking a break with her hiking partner at an empty campsite, she noticed Fen was having trouble walking.

"Her front legs got really weak, and she fell over and couldn't stand," said Healy. "She couldn't really tolerate being touched or contacted. Seemed like she was shrinking away from noise."

Healy and her friend had to fashion a litter out of hiking poles and a tarp, and carry Fen two and a half miles back to her truck.

As they walked, Healy's mind raced about what could possibly be wrong with her pet.

"I had read about the signs of cannabis toxicity, and I was suspicious, just being on a heavily used trail," said Healy.

When Healy finally made it to a nearby animal hospital, a veterinarian confirmed her suspicion. Fen had somehow been exposed to a high dose of THC.

"It's just something I never really thought I'd have to worry about," said Healy.

At DoveLewis Animal Hospital in Portland, veterinarians have seen a significant increase in pets poisoned by marijuana products.

In 2014, before recreational marijuana became legal, the hospital treated 100 cases. In 2015, that number jumped to 142 cases.

Recreational use of marijuana was legalized in July, 2015. And in 2016, Dove Lewis saw 219 cases of pets sickened by exposure to THC.

"One of the most common things that we run into is the fact that people hear about marijuana being used medically in humans, and sometimes they think, 'hey, I can just do that in my pet,'" said Dr. Christy Michael, Dove Lewis' Lead Veterinarian.

Quite often, such cases end with a trip to the vet.

"We give them lots of fluid therapy. We give them nausea control. And we maintain their airway. So we make sure if they're comatose or if they are vomiting, we're protecting their airway," said Michael.

In severe cases, if vomit gets into the animal's airway, a dog can die. Even in normal cases, it can take up to 24 hours for an animal to recover.

For Healy, her experience served as a wake-up call, an expensive and frightening experience she hopes will serve as a reminder to others.

"I'm sure it wasn't a malicious act, it was just a careless, somebody unaware," said Healy. "And I think people just need to have a higher level of concern for the safety of it. That it IS a drug."

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