When Tiffin was brought to Riverview Animal Hospital on Friday, the 4-year-old Schnauzer-Yorkie mix had dilated eyes, a slow heart rate and was unable to walk without stumbling.
Veterinarian Stacee Santi made a diagnosis: marijuana poisoning.
Tiffin apparently ate part of an apple used as an improvised marijuana pipe when her owner, Lani Dill, let the dog into her backyard at her Animas Valley home Friday morning. Tiffin returned to the house with poor balance and a funny look on her face, Dill said.
Dill put on her boots and went to investigate.
“I found these apples in my backyard, and I didn't put them there,” Dill said.
The apples had holes in them and what appeared to be marijuana residue.
Tiffin isn't the only canine victim of Durango's widespread marijuana use. Veterinarians have seen a dramatic increase in cases of marijuana poisoning in the past two years as legal marijuana has proliferated in La Plata County, Santi said.
“We see about one a week,” she said.
The problem arises when two things Durangoans can't get enough of – dogs and marijuana – come into contact with each other.
Dogs notoriously will eat just about anything. With marijuana, that eagerness can work against them. Durango-area dogs often get into marijuana left on hiking trails and natural areas, Santi said.
“They just have a very strong affinity for the THC,” Santi said. “They go crazy for it. I don't know what the attractant is, but they act like that's the most delicious thing they've ever had.”
Cats, of course, are smarter about it.
“We've had an occasional cat eat it, but they are a bit more selective,” Santi said.
Amounts of marijuana that would be fine in adult humans can be fatal in dogs, she said.
“It's a dosing issue,” Santi said, referring to Tiffin. “That dog is 10 pounds.”
Marijuana can depress a dog's heart rate and blood pressure enough that it can become hypothermic and even slip into a coma-like state, Santi said.
Tiffin's condition was up and down Friday. Santi said she was concerned and was monitoring Tiffin closely.
After diagnosis, Santi induced vomiting to get rid of any marijuana in Tiffin's stomach. Tiffin was also given activated charcoal to absorb marijuana, intravenous fluids and a new treatment, intravenous lipid emulsion, which counteracts the effects of marijuana, Santi said.
Owners who intentionally feed their pets marijuana can be charged with animal cruelty, said Jon Patla, director of La Plata County Animal Protection.
“If it's intentional, if they're allowing the animal to consume marijuana to the point it's a poisoning, it's cruelty,” Patla said.
Accidental poisonings are unlikely to result in charges unless there's repeated negligence by the owner, he said.
Dill has three dogs, but only Tiffin showed any health issues. Dill said she's not against people using marijuana, but she urged users to be more careful when disposing of pot.
“Use your weed responsibly,” she said.