BRUNSWICK — Darcy Baggett had just returned from a long winter walk with her fiance and their two dogs, Sherman and Nala, when she noticed the animals weren’t acting quite right. It was meal time, but the dogs weren’t interested in their food – one of them just looked at it and started swaying back and forth.

She called her veterinarian, who said that based on their symptoms, it sounded like the dogs had either gotten into antifreeze or marijuana, but to Baggett, neither seemed likely.


Darcy Baggett’s dogs, Nala (left) and Sherman, were taken to the emergency vet earlier this year after they ate what turned out to be marijuana. Local vets have seen an increase in marijuana toxicosis in dogs over the last few years and are warning pet owners to keep it out of reach. (Photo courtesy of Darcy Baggett)

Then she remembered that they had to pull the dogs away from something in a roadside ditch in their neighborhood during the walk. She went out with a plastic bag and grabbed the substance, which was frozen and, to her, unidentifiable.


By the time she was back inside it had grown “increasingly obvious that something was wrong with both dogs,” she said. Neither dog could walk, and Sherman had become so unresponsive that Baggett feared he had died.


They raced Sherman and Nala to the Animal Emergency and Specialty Care hospital in Portland, where they were held for 24 hours with a confirmed case of marijuana poisoning. The dogs had gotten into marijuana butter, which Baggett believes was left by a neighbor. She is in the process of pursuing a court claim against the neighbor to try to recoup the $850 in veterinary bills she incurred, she said.

Baggett posted her story on her social media page to warn friends that “you can be a very responsible dog owner and this can still happen.”

Marijuana poisoning among animals is becoming increasingly common across Maine and other states as marijuana is legalized and its use is becoming more widely accepted. Dogs are getting into it, whether while out and about, or at home. According to a report by the Pet Poison Helpline, there has been a 448 percent increase in calls concerning marijuana consumption by animals over the past six years.

Gail Mason, co-owner of Bath-Brunswick Veterinary Associates and Portland Veterinary Services, said the Portland clinic has a least one case of marijuana toxicosis in dogs per week, and there are at least two per month at the clinic in Brunswick.

As the drug is frequently being made into edibles, dogs, who are notoriously indiscriminate eaters, are more likely to investigate, she said. Plus, “people aren’t hiding their weed anymore.”

But the THC found in marijuana can be very harmful. It depresses dogs’ central nervous system and can make them lethargic and unsteady on their feet or cause tremors and urinary incontinence. In extreme cases, seizures, a coma or even death can occur.


Erica Parthum, a veterinarian at the Brunswick Veterinary Clinic, said that whenever she sees a dog with dribbling urinary incontinence, she now immediately suspects THC. A startle response, like when someone falls asleep and then starts to catch themselves, also is common. That, or they act intoxicated, she said, recalling one dog who ate pot brownies – the chocolate in the brownies created another set of problems – and another who ate a marijuana cigarette.

In the past nine months, the clinic has seen four or five cases.

In most cases, the situation is reversible, although Parthum said she has friends who practice veterinary medicine in Colorado who have not been so lucky. Symptoms can start fewer than 10 minutes after ingestion, or more than 90 minutes later, and can last for hours.

If the dog is brought in soon enough, the vet clinic can usually try to make it vomit. If not, activated charcoal often works to absorb the toxins and allows the dog to pass them. Other than that, the dog just has to wait it out.

Both Mason and Parthum agreed that pot poisoning is easier to treat if the owner is open about the chance the dog may have had exposure to marijuana.

“It’s distressing to watch an animal struggling,” Mason said, because they have no voice to say what’s wrong. A lot of the time, “we have to weasel it out of the owner,” she added. “But it’s worth a call, there’s no judgment.”

“We aren’t obligated by the state to (report) you,” Parthum said, admonishing dog owners to be honest because it only wastes time if veterinarians have to try to piece it together.

Mason urged pet owners to keep their marijuana out of reach of their animals and said that if a dog can get to it, a child may be able to, as well. This week is National Animal Poison Prevention Week. If you suspect your animal may have ingested something toxic, call your veterinarian or the pet poison helpline at 855-764-7661.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: