Dogs share everything with their humans—food, a bed, and now, even weed. Cannabis treats for canines are a growing medicinal trend, especially in places where marijuana is legal. But offering some bud to your bud can present a flurry of ethical dilemmas. Is it okay, I wondered, to get your dog high?
I spoke to several experts about the dos and don'ts of dosing your pets. Their recommendations varied, but all of them agreed on one thing: Blowing smoke in your dog's face is extremely shitty. Guys, never do that. Do not get your dog high because you think it's cool. Dogs can't consent to using cannabis, can experience adverse effects, and should only be given marijuana-based treats for medical reasons.
"THC is toxic to dogs, and while it's pretty rare for a dog to die directly from THC intoxication, it's very likely that they'll at least need to spend a day at the hospital receiving supportive care until the full effects wear off," veterinarian Dr. Mark Primiano told me.
Some common signs that your pup is stoned are lethargy, excessive peeing, low blood pressure, ataxia (loss of bodily control), and even seizures. If you think your dog got into your stash, it's best to bring them to an emergency clinic right away.
"The vet has no obligation to snitch and will be much happier if they're able to just treat your dog for what they know is the problem without having to run a bunch of unnecessary tests," Dr. Primiano added.
Some veterinary offices have blamed these accidents on the legalization of marijuana. In Englewood, Colorado, the VRCC Emergency Hospital told ABC News that since the state's passing of medical marijuana laws, it treats several animals per week who have unwittingly eaten edibles.
But the decriminalization of weed can be a boon for pet safety, too. I spoke to one San Francisco-based startup that specializes in cannabis tinctures for cats and dogs. Much like the stuff you'd find at a dispensary, TreatWell's products are lab-tested, and marketed as homeopathic medicine for everything from anxiety to cancer.
According to Alison Ettel, CEO and founder of TreatWell, dogs would never "freak out or have a bad reaction" to their products, since they're scrupulously formulated and non-psychoactive.
"If someone see a negative reaction, it's because [their pet has ingested] hemp or products with pesticides in them. We don't believe in using pure THC," she noted. Instead, TreatWell uses a ratio of THC to CBD (cannabidiol), which is another chemical compound that's found in cannabis, in addition to a cocktail of acids, terpenes, and "sub-cannabinoids."
Still, it's important to understand that canine cannabis treats aren't recreational—you shouldn't get your dog blazed just because you think they'd like it.
For pets undergoing cancer treatment, or for those with debilitating illnesses, cannabis can be an alternative to pharmaceutical medicine (though it should always be used in tandem with a veterinarian's advice, unless they specify otherwise).
Not all doctors will prescribe cannabis, though. That's because there's less scientific research to support its validity as a medical treatment. "If you don't have sound reasoning and examples of proof that your treatment will work (and not just anecdotal evidence), not only are you putting your patient's life and health at risk, you're putting your license on the line," Dr. Primiano said.
And then there's issue of consent. Dogs can't tell you, "Hey man, I wanna get lit." They also can't tell you how it makes them feel, which is why it's necessary to monitor their behavior after experimenting with cannabis products. Personally, I haven't given any to my dog because of this.
When I asked PETA, which is known for its polarizing opinions about the treatment of animals, about this conundrum, Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch said: "It's no more acceptable to amuse yourself by getting a dog high than it would be by getting a child drunk."
What PETA does condone is the use of medical cannabis for palliative care. "Dogs in pain should be given the same consideration that humans in pain are, and if cannabis treats can truly relieve their pain, regular doses would be appropriate to help reduce their misery," Nachminovitch added.
As with humans, weed for dogs should ultimately make them feel nice. If you're lucky, and live where marijuana is legal, you can even get your pet its own, personal stash. And by following a few set rules, like not smoking them out, you can ensure that your puppy pal is good to go.