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Pups & Pot: A Dangerous Combo?

SHANTEL DESTRA, HOST: Starting today, it's legal to sell recreational cannabis in New Jersey, and New York is expected to follow suit later this year.

DAVID NEWTOWN, HOST: Some New Yorkers are welcoming the move, but veterinarians know what happens when pot gets into the wrong paws. David Marques reports.

DAVID MARQUES, BYLINE: Louie the miniature poodle is normally an energetic dog. He's got wavy cream-colored fur and little button eyes. He jumps up and down when he sees you. But a few weeks ago, Louie's owner, Amy Singer got a text from her dogsitter that the poodle wasn't acting quite right.

AMY SINGER: I went to pick him up at daycare just a little after 10. She carried him out and he was just like a rag. He wasn’t moving. He was really heavy. Clearly something was wrong.

MARQUES: Singer, who works at Columbia, worried that it was something Louie ate off the street.

SINGER: There’s rat poison out here, there’s all sorts of stuff. And he’s like a little Hoover, he’ll eat anything.

MARQUES: So she brought Louie straight to the vet’s office, where he got a unexpected diagnosis.

SINGER: The vet called and she said that they thought that he ate a pot gummy.

MARQUES: An edible. Perhaps off the sidewalk. Often times, gummies are in the same shape and packaging as dog treats. And apparently this is a common problem. In states like California and Colorado, rates of accidental cannabis poisoning in dogs rose dramatically after legalization. The symptoms can vary in dogs. In general, they’re similar to the high of a human stoner. They might flop down on the floor and lie around; their pupils might dilate, or they might get anxious. And uniquely for dogs, dribbling urine is a telltale sign. But Dr. Matt Miller from Gotham Veterinary Center on the Upper West Side says that the symptoms can also be the opposite...

MATT MILLER: ... where rather than being really low energy, there's hyperactivity that's been seen, increased body temperature, increased heart rate, and even seizures.

MARQUES: In rare cases, it might warrant emergency medical care. But Miller says that for the most part, weed on its own doesn't make dogs critically ill.

MILLER: THC itself has a very high lethal dose. Some people don’t think it’s even possible for a dog to die with THC alone. Just your average 12 pound Shih Tzu would need to eat hundreds of an average joint.

MARQUES: Since cannabis ingestion usually isn’t deadly, emergency veterinarians focus on alleviating discomfort. Dogs might get IV fluids to treat dehydration, or medicine to relieve nausea. But dog owners, especially in Riverside Park next to a university campus, say they're being more vigilant about what might have been accidentally dropped on the ground.

(MARQUES: Is that something you're concerned about, or not really?)

DOG OWNER 1: Yes, I am, because I’ve got a Retriever and she’s a street licker and I’ve known dogs that have gotten sick.

DOG OWNER 2: I’m concerned about it only because my dog will eat anything that is near her mouth. I think it scares the owners very much… their dogs just kind of lying around and blissed out and wanting Cheetos.

MARQUES: Others weren't too nervous.

DOG OWNER 3: I have some concerns about the impact of cannabis legalization but not regarding the dogs.

MARQUES: As for Louie, he spent the night at the vet’s and by the next day, Amy Singer said he was back to his usual self. He sure seemed like it when I saw him a few days later. He was hopping up and down on his hind legs. And, he eagerly gobbled up some non-psychoactive treats out of my hand.

David Marques, Columbia Radio News.

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