Maria Klies takes her dogs for a walk along Taylor Beach in Metchosin every day. This week she rushed both dogs to the vet after they demonstrated stroke-like systems after their walk. Turns out the dogs had eaten marijuana butts.

Marijuana toxicity starting to appear in local dogs

Colwood resident stuck with vet bill after beach walk

The federal government has made its intention to legalize marijuana pretty clear. If that does happen, we could be seeing more than just cigarette butts littering the ground and that’s a problem one Colwood resident has had to face first hand.

Maria Klies is heartbroken. After a walk on Sunday, Klies noticed one of her dogs starting to show signs of distress.

“At around dinner time I noticed my miniature pinscher had stroke-like systems,” she said. Her husband had taken their two dogs for a walk at Taylor Beach in Metchosin earlier in the day. “We go down there everyday,” she added.

When her other dog started to present with similar symptoms, she rushed both dogs to a veterinary hospital, knowing it was not normal behaviour.

Both dogs were falling over when trying to walk, lethargic and experiencing some loss of bladder control.

“It really scared me,” Klies said.

She was told her dogs were suffering from marijuana toxicity.

“I was quite shocked and disappointed when I got the report from the veterinarian,” she said. “It’s just not fair.” She was also left with a bill for more than $650, even after the doctor gave her a break on some of the expenses.

Klies believes her dogs ate marijuana cigarette butts while walking along Taylor Beach. “You think there’s something else wrong with your dogs and you find out they picked up some butts,” she said, sounding defeated.

On a walk along Taylor Beach on Tuesday she pointed to the charred logs scattered with cigarette butts – among other things – that littered the beach, despite signs prohibiting beach fires. “It’s almost like an uncontrolled campground.” She said her dogs are often sniffing around the campfire remains as crumbs and other edibles are often left. Now she’s worried about what they might find.

In a short distance from the road access, she counts the remains of more than 12 fires. While she knows not all beach users leave butts and other garbage behind, she’s worried the situation will continue to escalate.

“It’s just becoming really bad, people are careless and littering.” She noted there are no garbage cans for people to use even if they wanted to. “If I can just save one dog,” she said. “I just want to warn people.”

While relieved her dogs have recovered, she still can’t believe they had to go through what she calls a senseless ordeal. “It’s just not right,” she said. “They get me out. They’re just there when you need them. They make me happy, make me laugh. They’re members of the family.”

While she said her dogs usually walk beside her, she doesn’t always monitor their every move on the beach. “He likes to explore. He’s a dog,” she explained, pointing to her chihuahua cross.

Klies isn’t the only West Shore resident whose pets have suffered this way.

“We’re seeing it more commonly than we used to,” said Eagle Rise Animal Hospital veterinarian Chris Collis. “Dogs are not one to say ‘no’ to any kind of goodies.”

Collis said he’s never encountered a case involving a cat.

While most of the cases he sees are dogs that have ingested marijuana in baked goods, he said it wasn’t a far stretch for them to eat it in butts. Dogs found to have marijuana toxicity are “clearly impaired,” he said.

The symptoms are similar to when a human takes a sedative. The animals are wobbly, have a sleepy expression and have slower heart and respiratory rates, he said. “They just look like they’re super tired.”

Collis noted the distinguishing symptom is “they will stand and often dribble urine.” While the dog doesn’t realize it’s lost control of its bladder, Collis said he usually sighs in relief that it’s not something more serious. He has never encountered or heard of a dog dying from marijuana toxicity.

Symptoms can present anywhere from five minutes to 12 hours from ingestion – usually presenting within one to three hours – and can last for 30 minutes to three days.

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