(KPIX 5) -- On November 8th, Californians will decide whether to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. But with the latest Field poll showing Proposition 64 ahead by a two-to-one margin, there's a growing concern about an unintended consequence - more cases of dogs digesting cannabis products.
"Dogs can die from this. It is uncommon but it's possible," said Dr. Karl Jandrey, Associate Professor of Clinical Surgical & Radiological Sciences at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. "We see probably see one a week but some of my colleagues in private practice in the Bay Area may see more like one or two a day."
The Pet Poison Helpline found that in the past five years, there has been an alarming jump in the number of dogs accidentally poisoned or intoxicated by marijuana - a 330% increase in cases across the nation.
"It was horrifying," exclaimed Irene Ogus, the owner of Jasper, an 8-and-1/2 year old poodle who accidentally ate some marijuana. "He looked like he was having a stroke. He couldn't stand up, he couldn't hold his head up, He couldn't get up at all. His tongue was drooling out of his head and he looked terrible. It was terrifying."
"We called up the vet and he said we should bring her in immediately," explained Nathan Brahms, owner of four-month-old Tule, a German Shorthaired Pointer. "I thought she hit her head maybe. She acted like she was concussed or something.
Both Tule and Jasper were accidentally intoxicated after finding and gobbling up marijuana while out on walks.
"She either ate a marijuana edible, or the end of a joint," said Brahms.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the number one source in dog intoxications are edibles intended for human consumption that are rich in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana.
One very potent source of THC used in making baked goods is cannabutter. It's made by steeping marijuana and butter for hours, straining the plant matter from the butter, and then re-solidifying the THC-infused butter. At least two dogs in the U.S. have died in the past year after eating cannabutter, according to the helpline.
In addition, some THC-rich cannabis edibles are also made with chocolate, raisins or xylitol, all ingredients that compound the toxicity in dogs.
The second main source of pot in these intoxications is the plant itself. The cannabis grown today is engineered to contain as much THC as possible, up to 20%.
"Just keep it away from pets like you would keep it away from children," said Julianna Carella, founder of Auntie Dolores, a San Francisco-based maker of medical marijuana products.
Carella says her firm puts warning labels on all of her THC-rich edible products. "We took the 'keep out of reach of children' and added 'keep out of reach of children and pets' on our packaging," she said.
With intoxications, some dogs get so sick, they're put on respirators and are in the hospitals for day. As for Jasper and Tule, they were flushed with fluids in the emergency room and treated.
And, while they recovered, the bills sent their owners into shock. "They handed us a bill for $700," said Ogus.
Dr. Jandrey is getting ready to ramp up triage - and not just for dogs. "I really think that if we do pass proposition 64 we will see more dogs and cats intoxicated," he said.
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