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Marley and Me ... and Marijuana: Is my dog high?

researched and written by Madison Nunes, Edited by Emma Fine

Marijuana leaves with text that says "Has the recent legalization of recreation weed made it more challenging to own pets in the city?"

We all know that 2020 was a difficult year making the legalization of recreational marijuana in New York in 2021 almost seem like a joke. It's as if the state legislature went through the same tough year as we did and decided to take a break with some weed. However thrilled we may be about the legalization, the city’s rise in recreational dispensaries could be less than good news for our pets, man. Over the last few months, we’ve heard numerous reports of four-legged New Yorkers getting sick after ingesting edibles and flower while out on walks. We’ve even had it happen to some of our four-legged clients while out with their owners.


On a national level, greater accessibility has led to an increase in marijuana toxicosis in pets. In 2019 alone, the Animal Poison Control Center saw a 765% increase in marijuana-related incidents. Although humans are often fine under the influence, we assure you that it’s an entirely different story for animals. The psychoactive compound found in marijuana, known as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), affects animals differently than humans due to their higher sensitivity and unique metabolism. Unlike humans who may take an hour or two to feel the effects of consuming an edible, animals such as dogs may display symptoms of THC ingestion in as little as 30 minutes.


Ingesting marijuana alone is rarely fatal, but put yourself in your dog’s place. They were going about their day, likely enjoying a walk or counter surfing in your kitchen, but now they’re deep in a level of couchlock that they were woefully unprepared for. After ingesting flower, the most common sign of marijuana poisoning is ataxia, a level of uncoordinated movement akin to drunkenness. Dogs will be unstable on their feet, often crossing their legs and stumbling. Other unfortunate reactions include urinary incontinence, dilated pupils, shaking, and general paranoia.


If you’ve ever gotten too high, the above symptoms won't be unfamiliar to you, but for your dog, the more severe reactions come from eating edibles made with xylitol and heavy butter. Xylitol, another substance pets metabolize differently than humans. More so than marijuana, xylitol is poisonous to dogs. It is regularly used in sugar-free and health-conscious foods. The ingestion of it is cause for an immediate vet trip. THC binds best to fat molecules which makes butter a common ingredient in cannabis-loving kitchens. Although butter isn’t toxic to dogs, it’s still a health risk as it could cause pancreatitis which manifests as gastrointestinal upset.


What can these symptoms look like in real life? Here's a video taken by one of Brooklyn Bark's walkers after they arrived to find a client suffering from THC poisoning. The pup had sneakily grabbed something off of the street while out on his morning walk with the owner.



Inside the Home

One of the simplest ways to keep your pet safe while you enjoy marijuana is to open your windows if you’re smoking inside. Second-hand highs impact pets, too. If you live in an apartment building that doesn’t have traditional windows, make sure you install window screens that make your open windows less of a hazard for your pet or opt to only open the upper window pane. You want your home to be well-ventilated without adding the temptation for your cat to lunge at the first available pigeon. If you can’t open your windows, consider finding a comfortable spot outdoors to smoke.


After you’ve finished relaxing with your favorite bud or edible, stash responsibly. Your weed will thank you for this too! Invest in an airtight storage container, such as a double walled vacuum jar that will also contain the smell. This jar should stay closed even if its tumbled off of your counter by a curious cat or booped firmly by your dog’s snoot. Once you’ve put your goods away in their jar, put that jar inside of a high-up cabinet in an area your pet doesn’t frequently visit.


Outside of the Home

Once your home is prepped for responsible smoke sessions, become familiar with the areas around your neighborhood. Pay the closest attention to the areas where you walk your dog. Take a stroll without your pet and keep your eyes peeled for increased waste. We know New York loves having chicken bones scattered like wildflowers, but take note of any bud-bags, gummies, cookies, or sweets you see. Dogs have sweet receptors and will be drawn to these types of edibles as the sweet smell evolutionarily indicates a food void of poison. If you’re seeing an increase in any of the above on your dog’s typical route, it’s time to find a new direction.


Another great tool to protect your pet while they’re out exploring? Use a consistent dog walking service. Having a reputable and responsible dog-walking company in your pet-care toolbelt means you’ll have a few consistent walkers that can all share in keeping your dog safe. When you opt to use a small business like Brooklyn Bark to care for your pets, the information you need to communicate in order to ensure your pet’s health is guaranteed to be a priority. Additionally, local businesses have the benefit of being in the know about your neighborhood’s ins and outs. Is your neighborhood particularly rife with fallen bud? Opt for a solo walk that allows your walker to spend extra time walking your dog in a designated area that you’ve deemed safe. Is your dog a scavenger more prone to picking up street treats? Sign them up for a small-pack walk so that their stimulated by their walking pals and not the ground around them.


As responsible pet owners, it's important to be aware of the potential dangers associated with cannabis use in pets and take the necessary precautions to keep them safe. By working together, we can ensure that our pets remain healthy and happy while continuing to enjoy the benefits of marijuana responsibly.


Interested in learning more about ways a Brooklyn Bark walker can keep your pet safe in this post-legal age? Inquire here.


Works Cited:

“Cannabis (Marijuana) Intoxication in Cats and Dogs: VCA: VCA Animal Hospitals.” Vca, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/marijuana-intoxication-in-dogs-and-cats#:~:text=Dogs%20have%20more%20cannabinoid%20receptors,toxicity%20in%20cats%20and%20dogs. Accessed 12 July 2023.


Johnstone, Gemma. “Marijuana Poisoning in Dogs: Cannabis Intoxication in Pets.” American Kennel Club, 10 Apr. 2023, www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/marijuana-poisoning-in-dogs/.

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