A B.C. couple’s five-year-old black Labrador retriever, Sherry, is normally energetic and full of life.
But one evening after an afternoon walk along the waterfront near their home in the Victoria suburb of Colwood, the active dog was less energetic, wouldn’t come when called like usual and had to be carried up the stairs to her bed.
“The next morning, she didn’t want to get (up); when we went downstairs she just stayed in her bed. When I finally managed to coax her out of bed, she could barely stand up,” said Jennifer Hoener. “It was as if her back legs were paralyzed – they were shaking and she was trembling like crazy. I immediately thought that she had been poisoned, but I couldn’t figure out how that could be because she was with us all night.
A call to an emergency veterinarian included a request to bring the dog in immediately. After doing an examination and testing the dog’s urine, the vet said they found traces of THC.
“We were blown away. We had no idea, neither one of us smoked pot and we didn’t know where it could have come from. We started putting two and two together and realized that she probably picked up something on our walk that afternoon,” Hoener said.
She added she was thrown off because Sherry hadn’t shown any symptoms until several hours after the walk.
The BCSPCA says symptoms can show up anywhere between five minutes to 12 hours after exposure, and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to multiple days, depending on the amount.
The size of the dog is also a factor: smaller dogs can die if they consume too much.
Incidents like these are becoming more common, according to research done at the University of Guelph.
Dr. Jibran Khokhar, professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Ontario Veterinary College, led a team that surveyed more than 200 North American veterinarians (191 of them Canadian) who self-reported incidents over a span of three months in 2021, with results released in March of this year.
There’s been a marked increase in incidents being reported in Canada since cannabis was legalized in October 2018, Khokar said in a statement. That uptick could be because people are more willing to report to vets the potential exposure of animals now that cannabis is legal, versus more people using cannabis.
The BCSPCA also warned dog owners to be on the lookout while walking their pooch. While other animals are taken to vets after consuming cannabis, Khokhar’s research found it happens most commonly with dogs.
The research also found edibles were the most common way animals were consuming cannabis.
Sherry the Labrador made a full recovery – the veterinarian recommended letting her rest for 24 to 36 hours. Since then, however, Hoener said they keep a close eye on their dog when walking her and have changed their route to keep her away from busy areas along the beach such as parking lots.
“I’m not judging (people) in any way. I just don’t want my dog to be sick like that ever, ever again.”