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Veterinarian urges people to keep pets safe from marijuana

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Big Falls – With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Montana effective January 1, 2022, the number of pets exposed to cannabis is expected to increase.

Vet Michelle Richardson from Big Sky Animal Medical Center In Great Falls he says cases are on the rise and expect more now.

“Over the course of the year, what we’ve seen is an increase in animals exposed to THC, we’ve had at least four to five per week,” Richardson said.

This trend is happening more and more after the adoption of medical marijuana several years ago, Richardson said, and she and other vets are concerned about what’s to come in the coming months with the legalization of recreational use.

“Once it’s more accessible, and we can buy it in stores, we’re nervous that we’re going to see a spike, even though we’re already seeing it more than ever,” she said.

Animals, especially dogs, tend to eat it via food, and they don’t know any better. In some cases, they have been known to chew the end of a joint.

Exposure to THC can cause significant changes in their behavior, such as making them sleep and become detached from their environment.

If it’s caught early enough, the owners won’t worry much. Most places will give dogs a drug called Apomorphine that will induce vomiting within a few hours.

However, if THC remains in the system for too long, the more affected the dog becomes, and eventually can become almost comatose.

We spoke with veterinarian Michael Norton of Best Friends Animal Hospital in Great Falls last year about this issue. He said, “Most dogs show up here, they can’t walk and it’s cold, 90 degrees. A dog’s normal temperature is 101.5. So if you don’t take care of your animal and leave it in the cold or you don’t know what’s going on, that dog will likely develop hypothermia and die.” Before you even know that anything has happened.”

But if these dogs are brought into the clinic, they will be warmed, given intravenous fluids, nausea medication, and supportive care. Norton says they usually go home within 24 to 36 hours.

Some dogs on medication will become agitated and even the slightest noise can send them into a close fit.

“They tend to spend three or four days in a darkened room with earplugs on, and then valium as needed to keep them from getting too upset,” Norton said.

From the Pet Poison Helpline website:

Marijuana can poison animals in different ways. They can eat marijuana food like brownies or a butter bowl, take in the owner’s supply of marijuana (any combination), or via secondhand smoke. Common symptoms of marijuana toxicity include sedation/drowsiness, dilated pupils or putting glasses on the eyes, stupor, difficulty walking and vomiting. Other symptoms can include either a low or high heart rate, vocalization such as whining or crying, agitation, difficulty regulating temperature resulting in a low or high body temperature, urinary incontinence/dribbling, tremors, seizures, and possible coma. Signs of toxicity can be seen anywhere from 5 minutes to 12 hours after the animal has been exposed to marijuana. The signs can last from 30 minutes to several days, depending on the dose taken.

Not a single case she has seen has been fatal, Richardson says but with the legalization of recreational use, she urges users to keep marijuana — in any form — out of the sight and reach of your furry friends.

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