Pamela Evans gazes lovingly at her four-year-old French bulldog Jack on Thursday, Nov. 5. The energetic young pup has regained his usual rambunctiousness after recently recovering from a significant illness brought on by consuming discarded cannabis new Brown’s Beach in Ucluelet. (Andrew Bailey photo)

Discarded cannabis a “frequent” threat to pets in Tofino-Ucluelet

"I couldn't grab him fast enough to get it out of his mouth before he swallowed it."

A Ucluelet senior is urging cannabis users to dispose of their roaches and edibles responsibly after going through a tumultuous experience with a very sick dog.

Pamela Evans, 76, was walking her four-year-old French bulldog Jack along a trail near Brown’s Beach around 3 p.m. on Oct. 25 when she saw him eat something off the ground.

“I couldn’t grab him fast enough to get it out of his mouth before he swallowed it,” she said.

She said Jack began throwing up “constantly” around 2 a.m. the next morning, so she took him to the Tofino Vet Clinic where he was put on an IV.

“I brought him back home and he wasn’t eating, he wasn’t drinking, he was doing nothing. This is a young dog, he just turned four and he’s usually very rambunctious.”

She said Jack was sick all day the next day, so she phoned the vet again and was advised that blood work was needed, which could not be done locally, so she took her dog to an emergency clinic in Nanaimo where she was told Jack’s illness was due to consuming cannabis.

“Whether it was a roach he ate or a gummy that somebody spit out, or whatever, I would like people to be aware,” Evans said. “People that are walking down the trail having a smoke, I don’t care, but just don’t throw it on the ground…Put it in your pocket and put it in the garbage later for the sake of the animals, please.”

She added that Jack has recovered and is doing well, but the experience was both financially and emotionally draining.

“This cost me over $1,000 to get this dog back to health and I would hate for somebody else, especially if they couldn’t afford it, to go through this,” she said. “Not everybody could afford that all out of hand. I’m just very lucky that I happened to have that and I don’t want to see another dog sick either. I don’t want to see anybody else have to go through it. I didn’t get any sleep for three nights.”

Evans has lived in Ucluelet for four years and adopted Jack about a year ago. She said she and Jack usually walk the trails twice a day, though she’s been avoiding the Brown’s Beach area since the incident.

“I’ve been trying to keep him to the sidewalks a bit more,” she said.

West Coast veterinarian Dr. Jeff Berry told the Westerly that cannabis consumption is a “frequent” issue locally and his clinic receives calls on a weekly basis from dog owners whose pets have become ill.

“Even just the end of a joint is quite attractive for a dog to pick up and eat,” he said. “It does seem that there is an awful lot of it available to dogs. I think probably people are just dropping their butts, not being really responsible and maybe people don’t realize that it’s a concern for toxicity for pets. It does seem to happen frequently and it’s not always just a dog getting into somebody’s edibles, it’s getting into some leftovers at a fire pit or something.”

He said most dogs recover without treatment and are able to sleep it off, but in some cases the symptoms can be severe, especially if an animal has consumed a high dose.

“Most of the time it’s not that serious, but if they get a really heavy dose and especially when it’s really concentrated like in the cannabis butters that are used for baking, they can get a toxic dose,” he said.

“They can get a dose that can cause a coma or can cause low blood pressure, low heart rate, low breathing rate and, very occasionally, seizures and death. It is possible for a dog to die of marijuana if they get a huge dose.”

He said the best way to prevent cannabis poisoning from occurring is to keep all edibles out of reach and to not let a dog eat anything off the ground, though he acknowledged that can be a tall task.

“I know it’s easier said than done most of the time, but the only way to really prevent it is not to allow your dog to eat stuff that you’re not aware of and maybe being extra cautious with your dog off-leash in areas where people are having campfires or parties or places where people may have been using marijuana,” he said.

He said symptoms of cannabis ingestion include urine leaking, head bobbing, acting lethargic and sedate or overly agitated and irritable. Vomiting can also be a symptom, but in some cases cannabis can have the opposite effect and vomiting must be induced.

“Most of the time the dog would look drunk,” he said.

“If your dog is a little bit wobbly and you know it’s gotten into marijuana, you’re probably OK. If it’s a lot wobbly or getting really, really, sleepy, it’s worth contacting a vet clinic and getting it checked and having the heart rate and blood pressure monitored…You do want to watch that they’re not becoming comatose and that their breathing is nice and steady.”

He added it’s a good idea to keep dogs warm as they recover and that inducing vomiting can help if it’s done within two hours of the ingestion and the dog isn’t already acting sleepy. He said the most commonly used home-remedy to induce vomiting is hydrogen peroxide. Dog owners are urged to take special care when inducing vomiting and use a 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide solution with a suggested dosage of 1 ml per pound of the animal’s body weight and a maximum of 50 mls for dogs over 50 lbs.

“Having a bit of hydrogen peroxide on hand out here is not a bad thing because we are such a distance from an emergency clinic,” Dr. Berry said, adding that activated charcoal can also help, especially if the dog has consumed cannabis plant.


andrew.bailey@westerlynews.caLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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