Franklin County vets: Little spike in pets consuming pot since legalization

Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital in South Deerfield.

Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Turners Falls resident Alan Wondoloski leaves the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital in South Deerfield on Tuesday with his cat Buddy, who had an encounter with a skunk.

Turners Falls resident Alan Wondoloski leaves the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital in South Deerfield on Tuesday with his cat Buddy, who had an encounter with a skunk. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 07-08-2024 3:17 PM

Area veterinarians say there has been no drastic increase in the number of pets brought in with cannabis in their systems since it was legalized in Massachusetts, though more of the animals’ owners are willing to admit their dog or cat got into their stash.

Voters opted in 2016 to legalize the cultivation and possession of non-medical marijuana despite an opposition campaign that stoked fears of minors and pets getting a hold of the drug. While some areas might report a sharp spike in marijuana ingestion cases, professionals in Franklin County say the only noticeable difference is that pet owners are no longer afraid of getting caught with cannabis.

“One nice thing about legalization is that people will readily admit to having it,” said Dr. Kristin Lappetito, who has been a veterinarian at Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital in South Deerfield for about 10 years. “It makes it easier to diagnosis.”

She said there has been a slight uptick in marijuana ingestion cases over the past five years, but it’s nothing that gives her concern.

Dr. Patrick Cotter, who became a veterinarian in Gill 51 years ago, said he has seen no increase in ingestion cases, though he more regularly detects the odor on humans bringing in their pets for examination. Like Lappetito, he said marijuana consumption for pets in rarely serious.

“Usually, just let them sleep and they’re fine in a day or so,” Cotter said, adding that some animals might need medication for restlessness.

Cindy Cole, owner of Greenfield Veterinary Clinic, said her practice is primarily a wellness clinic and has not seen any cases of marijuana ingestion for several years. However, she noted a few of her clients have taken pets to VESH after hours.

Lappetito said cannabis generally has low toxicity and will not cause organ damage in pets.

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“It can be shocking to owners, because dogs act ... often unsteady on their feet,” she explained, adding that animals that have eaten marijuana will often “look stoned” and dribble urine.

Lappetito said treatment often consists of intralipid therapy. Time in the intensive care unit might be necessary in severe cases.

She noted marijuana edibles are more dangerous to pets if they also include chocolate, which is toxic to dogs and cats due to its caffeine and theobromine content. Fortunately, Lappetito said, dogs and cats are unlikely to go out of their way to eat chocolate.

VESH can be reached at 413-665-4911. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s number is 1-888-426-4435 and the Pet Poison Helpline is 1-855-764-7661.

   Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com.