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What Vets Do When Pets Get into Illegal Drugs Like Marijuana

By: The Irreverent Veterinarian

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What do veterinarians do or what are they required to do (as far as reporting to authorities) when a dog is diagnosed with getting into illegal or illicit drugs such as marijuana?

The other day I saw two different dogs within an hour of each other that had gotten into marijuana. Yes, these were two unrelated incidents. The dogs had all the classic signs. The first dog, a 1 ½ year old lab, was suddenly "acting drunk" – unsteady on his feet and leaning on walls – and his pupils were dilated. There was no history of toxins or getting into medication – including marijuana. The second dog was a mixed breed dog weighing about 40 pounds.

When this situation presented itself in the past, I used to beat around the bush and not ask. I would hint at the question but not directly ask. Not any more. Time is of the essence and it's my job to help the dog. If I suspect illicit drug ingestion I now come right out and just ask the owner. I say something like, "Is there any chance your dog could have ingested any toxins, medications or other drugs such as marijuana?"

Even after directly asking these dog owners if there was any chance that their dogs got into marijuana, they said no. They generally all say no.

To read about marijuana ingestion and toxicity, go to: http://www.petplace.com/dogs/illicit-drug-exposure-in-dogs/page1.aspx

The other day this schoolteacher with 3 teenage kids adamantly said "Absolutely not" when I asked if his dog could have ingested marijuana. The teacher said that it was a ridiculous question and he threatened to write a complaint letter about me asking such ridiculous questions.

Holley mackerel. I was just trying to do my job. And my job was to take care of the dog and look out for the dog's best interests.

I can't help the dog without better information and here I was being threatened for asking a legitimate question. This has happened to me more than once - actually, it has happened several times.

So now what do I do?

After asking if the dog could have ingested marijuana, I continue with, "I'm a vet and I'm just trying to do the best for your dog. I can only help if I know what he may or may not have gotten into. I'm also not the DEA – I don't report drug intoxications by dogs."

With that, sometimes I get the truth.

Vets do not report on drug intoxications, so if you are in this situation – tell the truth.

By the way, the schoolteacher that actually yelled at me and threatened to write a letter to my boss came clean after I told him that I would not report anything. He said that his 15-year-old daughter told him about the marijuana, but of course it was not hers. The stash belonged to one of her girlfriends and it was wrapped up in something that the dog got into. (They all say that too.)

My Final Thoughts on Dogs That Get into Illicit Drugs

To those of you in this situation, I applaud you for taking your dog to the vet for treatment. It has to be stressful, embarrassing and nerve-racking not knowing what to expect. That is the high road. I don't advocate doing the drugs – but I do respect owners that are willing to take their dog to the vet after an accidental ingestion has occurred.

If you are worried about reporting, ask the vet up front. Ask, "IF my dog got into an illegal substance – would this be reported in any way?"

In asking about a dozen vets that I know I found that none of them report it.

Be honest with your vet so your vet can give your pet the best possible care.

Disclaimer

The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to PetPlace.com. The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can't always say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another point of view. All opinions are those of the Irreverent Vet and not the views of PetPlace.com and are not endorsed by PetPlace.com.




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