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Veterinarians see increase of animals ingesting owner's marijuana

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

An increasing number of our four-legged friends are biting off more than they can chew. 

At the Prytania Vet Emergency Service Uptown, veterinarian Christian Charlton admitted at least seven dogs that have ingested marijuana in less than three months.  

"I don't see too many cats, mainly a problem with dogs that come in with marijuana toxicity or ingesting," Charlton said. "The animals have dilated pupils, seem a little out of it, uncoordinated and almost falling asleep. We don't see them laughing, though."

Charlton, an 11-year practicing vet, has never seen that many cases in that amount of time. 

Other veterinarian clinics around the area say they see one to two cases a year, but admit 24-hour emergency clinics probably see more. 

The Pet Poison Helpline's latest numbers say there has been a 200 percent increase nationally of animals eating marijuana in a five-year span.  

A pot bellied dog is treatable with the right medication, but the effects of marijuana can last as long as three days. 

Charlton said dog owners are initially coy about what their best friends have gotten into. 

"If people are hesitant that maybe something's there, I'll tell them I'm not the police. I don't have an obligation to go to the police," he said. "I'm kind of like their lawyer or their priest. I'm on their side. I just want to find out what it is so I can appropriately treat their animal." 

In New Orleans, you do not have to look far for someone who has a puppy-pot story of their own. 

"My daughter had called me one night, and she was over with some friends. She told me that the dog ended up eating a bag of marijuana," Uptown resident June Victory said.  

The dog recovered a few days later, according to Victory. 

Many dog owners said they are not surprised by the growing problem. 

"They're 2-year-olds their entire life. They may get to be a lot older, but they are very inquisitive on what's that, and if you can have it why can't I have it?" dog owner Michael Murrell said.   

"Most pot smokers I know would be pretty likely to leave their pot lying around. Wouldn't surprise me that their dogs would get into it," dog owner Phillip Whitmore said.  

The veterinary industry blames the availability, access and legalization of marijuana in some areas for the uptick in cases. 

In rare cases, ingesting marijuana can be deadly for animals. Fatal cases usually involve animals that have swallowed large, concentrated amounts of THC. 

While marijuana dangers may be on the rise, vets say chocolate still remains the number one dangerous toxin for dogs. Lilies are the most dangerous toxin for cats.

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