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‘It was scary’: Dartmouth dog owners warn others of cannabis on local trails

Problem is frustrating but preventable, say owners

3 min read
Two dogs are shown on a hiking trail.
caption Wesson (left) was treated for marijuana toxicity after eating what his owner thinks was an edible left on the trail in Cole Harbour Heritage Park.
Sydney Trendell

Dog owners in Halifax are warning others against discarding roaches and edibles on hiking trails.

A treat for a human is a toxin for the many dogs who have come across cannabis on the path and eaten it.

In late December, Sydney Trendell was walking her one-year-old puppy, Wesson, at Cole Harbour Heritage Park. She didn’t notice him eat anything suspicious, but on the drive home, Wesson started throwing up. A couple of hours later, he couldn’t stand, as if he was drunk. He was growling at everything.

“He was basically tripping out,” said Trendell.

Terrified, she took Wesson to the Metro Animal Emergency Clinic, where it was quickly determined that he had marijuana toxicity. He was treated with an anti-nausea injection and an injection of activated charcoal, which binds with any remaining THC still in the stomach, and he was fine the next day.

“It was very overwhelming and stressful and completely preventable, which is the frustrating part,” said Trendell.

A dog with marijuana toxicity is shown lying on the floor.
caption Tater was treated for marijuana toxicity on Jan. 1, 2021. She couldn’t stand up or walk properly, scaring her owners.
Carla Barnaby

The same thing happened to Carla Barnaby on New Year’s Day. She had her dog Tater on leash on a trail in Mineville. When they got home, Tater was throwing up, couldn’t walk properly, and was acting spooked.

“I thought she was having a stroke or a seizure, because I never would have ever thought of anything like that,” said Barnaby. “It was scary.”

Usually not deadly

That story is becoming more common, according to Dr. Tara Riddell, a vet at the Metro Animal Emergency Clinic. She said they see several cases of marijuana toxicity in dogs every week, a “significant” increase since Canada legalized the drug in 2018.

A small or normal amount for a human can be very strong for a dog. Riddell said THC in the poop from someone who has taken an edible can poison a dog, something they might come across in the backcountry.

“In the most severe cases, they are almost comatose to the point that they are unable to swallow,” said Riddell. Then, there’s a risk of choking on their own vomit and dying.

Those cases are very rare. But even if it’s not usually life-threatening, it’s not an experience people and their dogs should have to go through, said Trendell. She’s asking people who use cannabis on the trail to think about how it might affect animals who come across it later.

“I don’t care if you smoke it,” Trendell said, “but if you pack it in, pack it out.”

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About the author

Sarah Moore

Sarah Moore is a journalist from Calgary who is working in Halifax.

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