Recreational drugs make list of top toxins for pets for first time

For the first time ever, recreational drugs including marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and cocaine made the ASPCA’s annual list of top toxins, knocking out gardening products in the tenth spot. Experts say the legalization of recreational marijuana has likely played a part in the dramatic spike in cases, and pet owners need to start treating products containing THC like prescription drugs.

The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center Director Dr. Tina Wismer said that there has been a 700% increase in marijuana-related cases over the last five years.

"Most of our cases are in dogs, and with dogs we see them becoming sedated — they’re trying to fall asleep, but at the same time they're also hyper-reactive. So any loud noise, they kind of overreact to it, and dogs also dribble urine," she explained. "Now, with animals that get into really large amounts, we can actually see them becoming comatose and having really low blood pressure and potentially dying. It's rare, but it can occur."

That’s what nearly happened to Linda Hart’s beloved Labrador Sunny, who somehow managed to get into her nightstand drawer a year and a half ago. Sunny sampled a bit of everything inside, including prescription drugs, supplements, and marijuana edibles. 

"He almost died – he couldn’t walk – he was just sitting in the car like, leaning over against the window," Hart said. "I was heartbroken when I thought he was going to die from eating all that stuff."

Sunny made a full recovery and the Harts locked everything potentially dangerous away. But a couple of weeks ago, Sunny jumped up on a table and took a sealed tin of THC-laced sleep gummies.

"He got up there and he grabbed the tin. It wasn’t open and it wasn’t thin aluminum - it was tough to get into, and he bit right through it and ate everything inside, said Hart. "The odd thing to me was he couldn’t even smell it – he ate through a metal tin." When she rushed him to the vet, she was told their office sees similar cases "all day long."

New data show that in 2022, recreational drugs including marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and cocaine made the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – or ASPCA’s - annual list of top toxins.

Last year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center assisted more than 400,000 animals in cases of potential pet toxicity. More than 7,100 animals were potentially exposed to recreational drugs including marijuana-based products (6,289 cases), hallucinogenic mushrooms (500 cases), methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, illicit fentanyl, kratom, and LSD.

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The dangers aren’t just inside the home — there have been cases of dogs accidentally ingesting potentially harmful drugs on walks outside.

"It’s kind of gross, but we know dogs could be gross, and dogs will eat human stool. And these compounds passed in the stool are still active. So there are enough THC compounds for dogs to become intoxicated if they eat human stool," said Dr. Wismer. 

She warned that pups who walk through human feces while on a walk or a hike can get sick from licking their paws.

"It’s scary, you know? And it’s disgusting," said dog Dad Christian Tate while walking his pup on West Hollywood.

Experts say that pet owners should start changing the way they store products with THC, and to be extra-vigilant while walking pets outside. And if you’re worried that your pet has been exposed - don’t hesitate to take them to the vet or to call the 24-hour animal poison control hotline at 888-426-4435.