“Your dog is positive for THC, and she’s really high right now.”
That’s something Jennifer Wright never expected to hear from the on-call veterinarian at the Animal Hospital of Cambridge.
Coco, the Wright family’s nine-month-old Yorkie-Havanese cross, had been acting out of sorts that evening.
“She was really lethargic, she picked her head up and it was wobbling,” Wright said. “So I picked her up and I tried to set her down on the ground, and that’s when I noticed … her back end was sort of swaying back and forth. She looked like she was going to fall over, and she could not walk, she would not walk.”
The family piled into the car and franticly tried to find a clinic that was open in the off-hours.
“I literally thought my dog was having a stroke,” Wright recalled.
THC out in the open
Coco wasn’t having a stroke, but she was one of a growing number of dogs in Canada falling ill from THC toxicity since cannabis was legalized in October, 2018.
Sometimes, THC toxicity happens when an animal gets into their owners’ stash, but like the Wrights experienced, sometimes a dog can get sick from eating as little as a discarded butt from the side of a walkway or in a city park, said Cathy Hrinivich, a small animal emergency care veterinarian at the Animal Hospital of Cambridge.
“We have people come in, particularly seniors, they’ve walked the same route with their dog for years and years and never had a problem with this before, the dog is sniffing around and gets into something,” Hrinivich said.
“And they’re just absolutely flabbergasted, just floored that we are diagnosing marijuana toxicity.”
756 per cent increase over a decade
The numbers are only anecdotal, right now, said Dr. Shane Bateman, an emergency and critical care clinician at the Ontario Veterinary College, but he said similar trends have been studied in the United States.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals runs a poison control hotline in the U.S. and has reported a 756 per cent increase in calls related to marijuana or cannabis over the course of the last 10 years, he said.