Dogs on Drugs

More pets are getting sick by ingesting fentanyl and other drugs
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 3:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Around this time of year, we usually remind you about pet poisoning risks from things like holiday plants and foods. But this year, The Animal Poison Prevention Center has something new on its radar: drugs. Dogs are getting ahold of them more than ever.

It doesn’t take much to make these important family members sick - or take them away from us. But simply knowing the threat is there can save your dog.

This month, the Irvine Police Department came across an eight-week-old puppy that chewed a fentanyl patch and almost died.

“Her tongue was hanging out of her mouth, her eyes were closing, so the officers thought, hey, let’s use the Narcan on the dog,” said Sgt. Karie Davies with Irvine PD.

That puppy will be fine, thanks to that dose of life-saving medication from officers. Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about Naloxone (Narcan), which is now available over the counter. Researchers say it’s just as effective on dogs as humans.

For puppies and small dogs, it’s one spray into the mouth, or in the nose for larger dogs. Retired paramedic Luis Garcia teaches pet owners and first responders how to use it.

“You just stick it in their mouth and you push the button. Boom,” Garcia said. “Six years, we’ve gone to seven states. We’ve done 452 hour classes given out 7,500 spray, 350 people have saved a life. And now I can say a puppy was saved.”

Even more common for dogs to get ahold of, as more states legalize it, is marijuana - especially edibles. Dog owner Troy Petenbrink had no idea what could be wrong when his dog, Princess, became sluggish and behaved erratically, so he took her to the vet.

“She looks at me and she says – well, you know what? Your dog is high. And I said – what do you mean high?” said Petenbrink. “I’m like – we don’t do that. We don’t have it in the house or anything like that.”

He says princess was the fifth dog the vet seen on THC that day. In the last five years, the Pet Poison Helpline reports a 745% increase in marijuana calls.

The signs: dogs wobble and appear unstable. They cower more easily, and may have more accidents. Dogs are more sensitive to THC than people.

“It can be quite alarming because people often believe their pet may have had a stroke because it can look like that similar and the pets obviously can’t say what they’re feeling,” said veterinary doctor Nastassia Germain.

Dogs are most likely to pick up drugs on the street. Watch for them sniffing anything that’s wrapped, packaged, or in tinfoil. But pets are curious - so, just as with children, keep any drugs or poisons secure and out of reach.

Dr. Germain is not just seeing increased cases, but more serious ones, with longer hospital stays. Luckily, she says lasting side effects are uncommon. But, as you might imagine, larger dogs recover faster. The typical treatment is to induce vomiting, so get your dog in to the vet as soon as possible.

Opioids can be much more serious, with signs of exposure within 15 minutes. Those could include difficulty standing or breathing, a blank stare, or unconsciousness. Garcia says it’s just one more reason to keep Narcan on hand.

“350 people have saved a life and now I can say a puppy was saved, too,” he said.

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