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Number of dogs needing treatment after eating marijuana skyrockets

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LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- A Jefferson County emergency animal hospital said it treats at least five dogs a day for ingesting marijuana.

One of their most recent patients is a puppy from Lakewood that had a major health scare Sunday night. The 13-week-old golden doodle named Cocoa went on a walk with her family at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and when she came home, she was unresponsive.

“Her head was just shaking back and forth,” Cocoa’s owner Linda Gryski said. "We were trying to get her to walk and she kept wobbling and falling over.”

Gryski rushed Cocoa to Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital.

“We’re so attached to her and I was really nervous she was dying,” Gryski said.

Gryski said she is still shocked by the doctor’s diagnosis.

“The minute I walked in the door, the first thing they asked me is do you smoke pot? And I was taken back by the question and I said no. They proceeded to ask me several times and I was getting frustrated,” she said.

It turns out Cocoa ate marijuana. It’s not clear how much, or if it was loose cannabis, an edible or something else. She likely picked it up somewhere at Red Rocks.

Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital reports treating at least five dogs that have ingested marijuana per day. Cocoa’s primary doctor, Ted Henderson at Fox Hollow Animal Hospital, said his practice has seen a major increase in intoxicated animals since pot became legal in Colorado in January 2014.

“We used to see it maybe once or twice a year. Now we see it once or twice a month,” Henderson said.

It's not just happening at Red Rocks. Pets across Colorado are getting into marijuana in several ways.

Tembo, dog on the right, needed treatment after eating marijuana

Tembo, dog on the right, needed treatment after eating marijuana

Kate Pinto lives in Denver's Highlands community and returned home one day to a scary discovery.

"It was terrifying. I came home from work to [find my roommate] Rudy crying with Tembo lying in the grass in front of the house. Tembo was drooling uncontrollably, like a faucet from his mouth," Pinto said.

Tembo was lethargic and could barely walk. Pinto and her roommate took the pup to an emergency veterinarian, who told them Tembo must have consumed a lot of marijuana given the fact a dog his size was having such a bad reaction. Tembo is part Great Dane.

Tembo was drooling from anxiety and all he could do was wait it out. A third roommate denied having marijuana in their home, at least not accessible by a dog. But when Pinto walked into the roommate's bedroom, she discovered a bag of marijuana on the floor. The roommate was asked to move out.

"It was just so terrifying, infuriating and sad. I felt so helpless for not being able to explain to [Tembo] what was happening. I can't imagine tripping as a dog and not knowing when it would end," Pinto said.

Veterinarians treat intoxicated dogs with IV’s and rest.

If a dog is brought to the vet within four hours of ingesting the marijuana, they can induce vomiting to reduce the side effects. In cases where the dog has had it in their system for longer, like Cocoa, inducing vomiting is ineffective because the marijuana shuts off the dog’s gag reflex.

“Very few animals die,” Henderson said.

However, they can suffer mental issues, stress, seizures and exposure to toxins after ingesting cannabis.

Gryski said Cocoa was on a leash at all times during their time at Red Rocks. The family wants to warn other pet owners of the hidden dangers curious puppies and dogs can accidentally get into in Colorado.

“Just be really careful what they’re putting, and sniffing and licking, especially as puppies,” Gryski said.