The blogging site by Long Lake Animal Hospital
I thought it may be a good idea to share my concerns as a veterinarian on the legalization of marijuana, I don't like marijuana, legal or not, it poses a risk to my patients. According to Pet Poison Control there has been a 448% increase in marijuana cases over the last 6 years since it has been legalized.
"Toxic to dogs?" you ask....YES! I have had discussions with young and old who are of the thinking that it's been around forever and we haven't heard of poisoning of dogs. Did you know there is a higher concentration of the active ingredient (THC) than in the past? Depending on what part of the plant is used and which group is doing the study, it is 2-7 times stronger. In quite a few studies published by anti-marijuana groups, it is up to 30% stronger (likely medical grades were in the studies). To me, it means yes it is stronger and therefore more dangerous for my patients!
A pet can be poisoned by marijuana in different ways; ingesting edibles such as brownies or pot butter, eating their owner's supply, the plant itself, or by secondhand smoke. If you are going to use marijuana in any form, keep it in closed high cabinets or a locked drawer. Accidents happen, but it is disappointing to me to think that a loving pet owner thinks it would be funny to get their pet high, SO DON'T!
Signs of toxicity in pets include sedation, dilated pupils, difficulty walking, vomiting, crying, agitation, trouble regulating body temperature, dribbling urine, seizures, coma or death! These symptoms can start anywhere from 5 minutes to 12 hours after exposure and can last 30 minutes to several days depending on the dosage. There is no test to detect marijuana levels in pets, so I rely on your honest history.
If you have an accidental ingestion come straight in. We didn't notify the police when it was illegal, we aren't going to now that it is legal or announce it to the lobby. We are here to help, not judge. Many times I have seen (and smelled) clients that are somewhat out of it but scared to death at the terrible state of their dog. I ask if marijuana is possible and they deny it. Treatment is quicker if I know ingestion has occurred or even if you aren't sure that it is a possibility. If I don't know I have to run unnecessary tests to make sure it isn't a list of other toxins or diseases.
There is no antidote for marijuana toxicity. Treatment can be done here at Long Lake Animal Hospital which involves supportive care. Initially, we may induce vomiting if it is early and there are no symptoms; this could avoid all toxicity signs. We may administer activated charcoal to bind the toxins in the stomach if symptoms have already started. We may need to help regulate body temperatures, administer IV fluids, monitor heart rate and treat for arrhythmia. THC is stored in body fat and broken down in the liver. It can take 30 minutes to several days for your pet to recover - not a fun time for them!
Dr. Lisa LaCross
I remember the first time I saw heartworms; yes, they are big, real and visible! My college summer job was at the local veterinary clinic. I worked mostly with the small animal vet "Doc" as he was often called by clients. This clinic also had two large animal vets. For my readers whose imaginations jump to elephants and whales, scale back to cows and horses. Doc was the senior vet nearing retirement. He did his best to discourage me from entering the profession. If a case came in infected with maggots, he handed me the ether filled spray can to anesthetize the maggots and said "start picking". That is a blog story for another day! Well, at this clinic on a shelf in the lobby was a glass jar; the kind you see now that look so elegant filled with candy or seaglass on everyone's coffee table. The difference, this one was filled with formaldehyde and the heart of a dog that had died from heartworm disease. That means, dead worms were entwined around the heart and coming out of the major vessels of the heart. I couldn't believe how big they were! Doc said "clients need to see what is killing their dogs or they don't care". At the time it was preventable but the medicine had to be given daily and a lot of dogs weren't given it or they were not given it consistently.
Well, needless to say, all of old Doc's antics didn't dissuade me from becoming a veterinarian. Even though he thought I should go into human medicine, when it came time to apply to vet school, Doc wrote me a great recommendation and I started vet school fall of 1989 at Michigan State University. I spent the first 3 years mostly in front of a book or in a lab. So my knowledge of heartworm, its life cycle, its intimate relationship with the mosquito, the medications to prevent and treat, were all by reading or lectures. The image of the heartworm in the jar was still in the back of my mind but I had no glimpse of the nasty worms, that is until my final and 4th year of vet school. I was rotating through the different specialties and cardiac rotation was next. The doctor (a veterinarian cardiologist) had an uncanny resemblance to my "Doc"; flat top grey hair, stocky stature and spent most of the day discussing all of the world's problems as we examined patients and explored the dynamics of the heart. One of our cases was a boxer in congestive heart failure, the cause, heartworm disease. Heartworm treatment at the time was a form of arsenic given intravenously. He wasn't a typical heartworm case though, he had massive numbers of worms and medical treatment alone would surely kill him. If there are high numbers of worms and they are killed by the medicine all at once, the body may not be able to break them up and remove them, blockages are likely to occur. There was a lot of discussion in the hospital on how to save this sick guy, the cardiologist said his best chance was to do open heart surgery and remove as many worms as they could, then follow up with the medicine to kill any remaining worms. So, my second look at real heartworms was in a surgery suite. The white wiggly worms were alive and moving being removed from this poor boxer's heart. The number of worms removed I can only guess, but like any good story the number grows as I age! The happy ending we hoped for occurred, he lived. However, like most dogs that become infected with heartworms, he had some permanent heart disease and did have to stay on medications for life to help his heart function.
I really hoped after that day I would never see an adult heartworm again. Fate would have it in the summer of 1998 my husband and I made the migration north by purchasing an existing practice in Traverse City. We named our dream Long Lake Animal Hospital. Guess what we found on a shelf in a cupboard, a lovely glass jar filled with formaldehyde cradling a heart full of heartworms! It is funny, seeing those little beasts this time actually made me smile thinking of my two mentors that have since passed. Did the veterinarian who owned the practice before us get it off craigslist from old Doc before he passed? Was she of the belief our clients won't understand the seriousness of heartworm disease unless they see it too?
Prevention of heartworm disease is much easier today, a chewable treat once a month will do it for both dogs and cats! Unfortunately, if not prevented the disease is still as devastating. It still requires a form of arsenic (caparsolate) to kill these adult worms in the dog. Our cat friends cannot be treated if they have heartworm disease because they can't survive the caparsolate. The heartwormsociety.org is a great source for more information on heartworm disease, incidence, treatment and prevention. As to the jar at our office, it's sitting on the shelf still in the cupboard. I mostly pull it out to torment my young vet wannabes in honor of Doc. I don't discourage anyone though because I know I am in the best profession and even a day of maggots is a good day!
Dr. Lisa LaCross
Dr. Lisa LaCross, a graduate of Michigan State University, has owned Long Lake Animal Hospital along with her husband Jeff since 1998. They have grown their hospital while raising four children. She is the author of Dog Care: 365 Tips & Insights as well as Cat Care: 365 Tips & Insights, of which all proceeds from the sale of these books go to the local Cherryland Humane Society. She has a special interest in rehabilitation therapy and continues to practice and enjoy all that Traverse City, Michigan has to offer.
Monday 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Tuesday 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Wednesday 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Thursday 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Friday 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Saturday 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
LONG LAKE ANIMAL HOSPITAL
9929 North Long Lake Road
Traverse City, MI 49685
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