Should You and Your Dog Get Stoned?

I know dog parents can’t be happy all the time, but some things make this dog mom really sad. Take the focus on marijuana, which is okay in and of itself, but in its wake, the sudden upsurge of trending YouTube videos of dogs doped up. Just the other day I watched a few clips on prime time. I mean, really—shouldn’t this be illegal?

Before you dismiss me as too prim, I experienced the joys of pot plenty in my day, and it was fun. I couldn’t walk without laughing and couldn’t laugh without falling flat on the floor. I ate lots and lots of cheeseburgers, chatted non-stop and gave my dog, Eloise, unending affection and ball tosses.

Did I ever mindfully or even mistakenly get my sweet little Eloise stoned? No. That never happened on my watch. Eloise was my first baby—she counted on me for everything; for “rational decision making.” Partying aside, I had a responsibility to care for her.

In my minds-cape dogs are like kids: And you wouldn’t get a toddler stoned or blow smoke in your infant’s face, would you?

Still, these dog-stoning clips are making the rounds and I just don’t know what to make of them.

The other night I was on a roll. My two kids got straight to bed after helping me load the dishwasher, I got all 5 of my dogs in and out and upstairs without having to utter a word, and my husband was home from work early. Though TV time is rare in this household, we were determined to watch a bit. Tuning into Inside Edition, we curled up on the couch with our halo of dogs snuggled in tight.

And there on the screen was my friend and colleague Dr. Jeff Werber (media expert and Hollywood’s favorite veterinarian) making a cameo on Inside Edition to comment on—what else? The dogs-on-marijuana trend! “A dog’s not going to find a plate of hash brownies and stop at just one!” Jeff said.

Good glory- if a drug overdose doesn’t kill these innocent dogs, a plate of chocolate brownies just might.

So where do you weigh into this equation? Do you think watching an unsuspecting dog wobble around the floor or convulse uncontrollably is good entertainment? Talk to me here!

The next day I rang Dr. Jeff to get his take on this YouTube sensation. He noted that the sudden uptick in dog doping is due to the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana in many states. “Emergency veterinarian visit for marijuana ingestion has quadrupled! People don’t have to hide the stuff anymore, and many are cooking it into delightful edibles that their dogs sniff out. Dogs don’t know the difference between a hash cookie and dog biscuit. They’ll eat whatever they find.” So true…

But there’s more to this problem than meets the eye. Although both people and dogs can get high from ingesting or inhaling pot smoke, dogs suffer more and are more susceptible to marijuana toxicity, which can be fatal. In reality, it would be less harmful to get your kid stoned than your puppy, although I’m not recommending either. Here’s why.

Call it what you will—marijuana, hash, pot, ganja—comes from leaves of the cannabis plant, which contain a psychoactive element, a compound known as tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. When inhaled or eaten, the THC enters the brain and results in what’s known as a “high.”

The rest of the cannabis plant is harmless and has been used for thousands of years for food, art, and medicinal purposes. Cannabis continues to be harvested throughout Europe, China, and Canada. Have you ever bought hemp ropes, dyes, and nutritional supplements? Anything “hemp” comes from cannabis: the same plant used to make marijuana.

Modern scientists, however, were curious to study the psychoactive affect of the THC compound on various mammals including dogs and people. They tracked the intake of THC to see where it entered the brain, how much was received and how it impaired each animals mobility and awareness. Here’s what they discovered.

While people get high—dogs get super high. They have more receptors for THC in their hindbrain, causing a neurological affect that leaves them in either a clumsy stupor or a hyper-reactive state where they are super sensitive to light and noise. An overdose of THC can result in marijuana, standing immobilized, rocking back and forth but unable to move, drooling, fixated, pupils fully dilated. A dog in this state—as Stanley Coren, a world-renowned scientist, best known for his work on the mental ability of dogs, puts it—looks like he’s hallucinating. Although the affects can wear off with an hour, some dogs can suffer what we’d call a “bad trip “for days. In extreme cases, marijuana toxicity can be fatal.

The bottom line? Party all you want! Use marijuana to improve your health or mood. You can even smoke it as an excuse to downshift and spend some extra quality time with your dog who’ll never die from an overdose of affection. But spare your dog the THC. At the end of the day, dog lovers are parents with a responsibility to protect their babies from mishap or confusion. Human parents know to hide their stash; dog parents need to do it, too.

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