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By Christine Newman, DVM | JANUARY 4, 2021

The Mütter Museum houses a collection of objects swallowed by humans and subsequently endoscopically retrieved by Chevalier Jackson, MD (1865-1958) of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia during his almost 75-year-long career. This fascinating and perhaps mildly creepy collection includes more than 2,000 objects, which range from small coins to a pair of miniature binoculars.

A German shepherd puppy ate a whole light bulb, rubber tubing, and a plastic stopper. The patient recovered well from surgery. Photo from Veterinary News.

If only Dr. Jackson had been a veterinarian. He would have needed only a few short years to amass a collection ten times the size! The inedible items dogs, and it is mostly dogs, will ingest, is truly astonishing. We removed socks, underwear, rocks, jewelry, and even 17 squeakers from a single patient.

Christine Newman, DVM, Harlingen Veterinary Clinic in Belle Mead

Veterinary Practice News has run a contest for the most interesting radiograph of a foreign object swallowed by a patient. (It is worth a Google search just to see the X-ray of the broken fishing pole in the stomach of a 10-week-old Labrador puppy.) This willingness to ingest inedible items may explain why dogs are even more likely to eat certain food items that can also prove detrimental to their health.

Most of these foods, such as chocolate, raisins, and sugarless gum are well known. But I think that early next year, veterinarians in New Jersey, will join our colleagues in 15 other states, in treating a new kind of toxicity. New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana in November.

A 2012 study in Colorado reported “A significant correlation was found between the number of medical marijuana licenses and marijuana toxicosis cases seen in two veterinary hospitals in Colorado.”

The inedible items dogs, and it is mostly dogs, will ingest, is truly astonishing. Marijuana intoxication calls to the ASPCA’s animal Poison Control Center increased seven- fold from 2018 to 2019, and calls to the Pet Poison Helpline increased four-fold. Many of the toxicities involved dogs eating candy or baked goods that contained THC.

In the Colorado study, two dogs died from ingesting baked goods that contained very potent THC butter. Chocolates containing THC will pack a double whammy, and baked goods containing large amounts of butter may cause pancreatitis as well as marijuana intoxication.

While dogs are the main culprits, cats have been poisoned from eating marijuana buds. Signs of intoxication in dogs include lethargy, a drunken gait, dilated or constricted pupils, a rapid or slow heart rate, low body temperature, and dribbling urine. In severe cases, coma or seizures may occur. In cats, clinical signs include dilated pupils, head bobbing, wandering aimlessly, salivation, and possible hallucinations.

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There is no veterinary specific test for marijuana ingestion in our pets; the human-over-the counter urine test may be used but false positives are likely. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and history and since many intoxications or illnesses may present with similar signs, it is important to be honest with your veterinarian as to whether marijuana intoxication is likely.

Your veterinarian wants to offer the best and most appropriate treatment. Being forthcoming about any type of possible drug ingestion is critical to the treatment being administered. Treatment for marijuana intoxication is supportive as there is no antidote. Most pets survive their dietary indiscretion, but full recovery may take several days.

Prevention is truly the best medicine – keep those brownies and gummies and any other tempting treats locked away from your pets!


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