Marijuana and dogs: Vets warn (again) that you shouldn't give pot to pets

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Back in 2010, we published a story in which a veterinarian warned that dogs shouldn't be given marijuana. Shortly thereafter, Fox31 did a lurid version of the same story, complete with imagery straight out of a '60s-era psychedelic flick. Then, last year, CBS4 reported about a vet who'd conducted a study on dogs and weed and come to the same conclusion -- and now, 9News has produced its own report on the analysis, juxtaposing serious talk about danger to animals with a shot of a bulldog looking happily stoned. Get details and see videos below.

In April 2010, we chatted with Laura Higgins, an emergency veterinarian at Aspen Meadow Veterinary Specialists in Longmont. Higgins told us about an incident in which a dog scarfed down a batch of pot brownies.

"They thought the dog would be fine, even though chocolate is toxic for dogs -- that's another issue," Higgins said of the dog's owners. "But by the time the dog came to me, she was comatose, nearly dead."

This case was hardly unique, Higgins told us. She estimated that Aspen Meadow was seeing instances of cannabis ingestion by pets an average of once a month, and she feared that rate would increase as medical marijuana became more prevalent in Colorado.

At that point, Higgins said, the cases she'd handled to date "have been purely accidental -- or at least no one has admitted any intended marijuana intoxications.... I suppose some goofballs might think it's funny. But honestly, I doubt that could happen."

Hope she didn't put any money on that supposition.

The following month, Fox31's Heidi Hemmat tackled the topic by way of Luke, a dog that had apparently gobbled up a marijuana-infused muffin tossed out by a dispensary.

Unfortunately, the video of this piece, which featured the first image in this item, is no longer online. But here are excerpts from our post:

At that point, Hemmat declared that Luke was stoned -- a revelation mirrored visually by a dopey video effect and musical sting reminiscent of '60s era flicks like Psych-Out. The same effect was used later in conjunction with footage of a chihuahua staggering around

Throughout, Hemmat used pot references, declaring, for example, that Luke was simply high and just needed to come down. This tone was continued after the report, with Libby Weaver and Ron Zappolo chortling as if they'd gotten into the marijuana muffins, too.

That was only one of many mixed messages in the report. The vet interviewed in the Fox 31 story noted that she's seeing a couple of marijuana intoxication cases per week, adding that when medical personnel don't know what's causing a dog's illness, the resulting treatment can run into the thousands of dollars -- a serious amount of money. Likewise, Hemmat touched on the potential need for regulation concerning the way dispensaries dispose of marijuana, although that topic was lost amid the silliness.

More problematic was the suggestion that dogs get high in much the same way humans do. But according to Longmont vet Higgins, there's no evidence that canines experience any kind of euphoria. Instead, they get very, very ill depending on the amount of marijuana they ingest.

The latter theme was struck by CBS4 this past October, albeit under a comic-sounding headline: "Dogs on Dope."

Continue for more about dogs and marijuana, including videos. Despite its label, the CBS4 piece, reported by Brian Maass, was much more serious in tone than its Fox31 predecessor. It featured Dr. Stacy Meola talking about a five-year study, covering the years 2005 to 2010, of marijuana ingestion by dogs. She pointed out that most dogs that had eaten cannabis had survived, but not all.

"Two dogs...got into baked goods with medical grade marijuana butter in it, which presumably seems to be more toxic to the dogs," she said. "So we did have two deaths."

Meola's study was featured in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care in December -- but this weekend, 9News made it the centerpiece of its own report. And while the image above suggests a mixed message, the report itself came across as serious, albeit repetitive.

Is the message about keeping dogs away from marijuana getting across? A question answered in a January Ask a Stoner column by Westword medical marijuana critic Wililam Breathes suggests it isn't. Here's the inquiry, followed by Breathes's answer:

Dear Stoner: My dog loves to get high. How much pot is too much for Spot?

Wookie McTastic

Dear Wookie: As much as you may have convinced yourself that your dog likes to get stoned, it doesn't. What you're saying is you love to get your dog stoned, and you need to stop.

See, your dog (or cat, for you lonely types) has the average intelligence of a two- to three-year-old child. Picture yourself as said three-year-old child, with your limited understanding of the world. Now picture your parents coming and blowing smoke in your face and making you really confused and dizzy for a few hours. Get it?

What your dog really wants is your attention, and your ritual of getting your pet stoned is nothing more than that. Your dog would probably enjoy a walk around the park or a hike in the mountains a whole lot more than you blowing smoke rings up its ear or in its nose.

Here are the aforementioned 9News and CBS4 reports:

More from our Marijuana archive circa 2010: "Marijuana can kill your dog -- but Fox 31 turns story into joke."

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