As marijuana's status has changed legally and in the opinions of many people across America, there's no doubt that dogs are getting stoned too. It's happening both when owners purposefully give it to their dogs and when they accidentally ingest it.
Cases of stoned dogs have increased since medial marijuana started to be legalized in certain states in the mid-2000s, the ASPCA and Pet Poison Hotline both reported to BuzzFeed.
Although, it's not clear if this increase is because more pets are getting high, said Dr. Tina Wismer, the medical director at the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center. This may be because "people are more willing to say 'Yeah, my dog got into my marijuana'" or because veterinarians are more aware of the issue and thus identifying it correctly more often, but either way it's clearly happening.
How do dogs get stoned?
People give marijuana to their pets to deal with medical problems and have said they are very pleased with the results, said Darlene Arden, who is a certified animal behavior consultant that advocates for medical marijuana for animals.
Owners have also found their dogs accidentally high after eating pot brownies and other edibles, as well as from eating the green, leafy marijuana buds.
Cannabinoids, the psychotropic compounds that get someone high, pass through people in their feces, so dogs also get exposed to marijuana by eating human poop. This happens most often in areas with large homeless populations, Wismer explained.
The impact of the weed on the dogs varies greatly depending on the weight and body size of the animals, Dr. Robin Downing, a Colorado doctor of veterinary medicine who is also a certified pain and rehabilitation practitioner, told BuzzFeed.
Dogs can also get high from secondhand smoke, just like a person can. Again the dog's size plays a role, but how high the dog gets depends on the concentration of smoke and how long the exposure is to the smoke.
"Was the smoke blown into their face?" Downing asked. "If the smoke was blown into their face, they might as well be smoking it themselves."
How does marijuana impact dogs?
Dogs who have been seen by vets after ingesting marijuana show the symptoms listed above. Although, "about 25% of animals, instead of being calm and relaxed, they are panting, pacing," Wismer said. "And they are quite distressed." This poses a challenge, because there's no way to know which dogs are going to be effected this way.
Size also plays an important role in how the cannabis effects dogs. "A 75-pound labrador retriever who gets into the stash, that dog is going to have a different experience than the 12-week-old, two-and-a-half-pound dachshund," said Downing.
She explained the small dachshund had gotten into the medical marijuana of her clients' son who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and is getting relief from medical marijuana, but the dog "nearly died" because of its young age and small size.
Can dogs die from marijuana?
They have to ingest a pretty large amount of weed to actually die, Downing said, but it doesn't necessarily take a lot to have an adverse effect.
"Their time in the emergency room on intravenous fluids and supportive care has varied from one day to three days," Downing said. Dogs who are more likely to die are those who are small, old, or very sick.
Two dogs have died from ingesting marijuana in the form of cannabis butter, a five-year study done by two Colorado veterinarian hospitals reported. The incidents were both related to marijuana-infused butter, called cannabutter, perhaps because of the process used to make it, which involves heat and alters the compounds.
Does medical marijuana work for dogs?
The debate over whether or not medical marijuana is beneficial for ailing pets is becoming an increasingly relevant topic, as many people are self-administrating medical marijuana to their pets and a few pot shops are even selling dog treats.
For the most part, the veterinarian community remains doubtful on this approach due to a lack of research, emphasizing that it is unknown what is appropriate dosages for dogs.
Before his death in August from cancer, so-called "vet guru" Doug Kramer was a vocal advocate for medical marijuana for animals.
Kramer first gave marijuana to his own Siberian husky when Nikita was 12 and suffering from chronic pain. The cannabinoids have similar effects on animals as to humans, with increased appetite and decreased nausea, Kramer said. It gave him six more weeks with his beloved dog before she died.
"I grew tired of euthanizing pets when I wasn't doing everything I could to make their lives better," he said in an interview with the Associated Press in June 2013. "I felt like I was letting them down."
Kramer prescribed one drop of liquid marijuana put in cheese for every 10 pounds of body weight, Darlene Arden said.
"AVMA (the American Veterinary Medical Association) will not approve it until there have been studies," Arden said to BuzzFeed. "I agree that there should be studies but at the same time, I don't think animals should have to wait years for treatment, for relief from pain and/or nausea."
Medical marijuana has offered pain relief to dogs suffering from arthritis, Arden said. She also mentioned that it has decreased nausea for dogs undergoing chemotherapy, while increasing their appetites. "It gives them quality of life," Arden added.
Will there be a future for medical marijuana?
"Absolutely yes," Downing said. She explained that cats and dogs have receptors in their nervous system called cannabinoids receptors that allow them to be effected from marijuana.
"They have the lock, if you will, and our job now is to find the key that fits that lock," Downing said. "And it's somewhere in the marijuana plant."
She thinks will open an entirely new door, "but it's going to require an awful lot of research before we have something that we can use reliably safely and consistently."
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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