Is Marijuana Safe for Pets?

By Victoria Kim 07/06/15

One viral video of a man blowing pot smoke into his pet chameleon's mouth has triggered a firestorm of debate.

Chameleon on branch

Is it animal abuse to get your pet high? Bruce Blunt, the man who was arrested, and later acquitted, for a viral video of him blowing marijuana smoke into his pet chameleon’s mouth, didn’t think so. The judge ruled that while Blunt's actions were “really, really uncalled for and immature,” his chameleon, Binna, showed no signs of harm.

But members of PETA, who saw the video and filed a complaint with Chicago authorities, which led to Blunt's arrest, said they were disappointed with the ruling. “Forcing any animal to breathe in smoke without their consent or understanding—especially of a mind-altering or psychoactive nature—it’s cruelty, and obviously local officials agreed with us,” Stephanie Bell, PETA’s cruelty casework director, told the Chicago Tribune.

Currently, there’s no state, even those that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, that allows veterinarians to prescribe medical marijuana for pets, though the Nevada legislature is considering a bill that would allow it.

According to Dr. Robert Goggs, a doctor of veterinary science and lecturer at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, it’s “misguided but not unethical” for a pet owner to try and alleviate pain in an animal using medical marijuana, he told Vice.

Goggs said that yes, pets can get high, given that animals like dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, monkeys, even rats, all possess the cannabinoid receptors that allow them to respond to THC the way people do.

“We know that the drug produces signs of intoxication in both dogs and cats,” Goggs said. “This implies that the drug and its metabolites cross into the brain and affect the receptors—so you could say the drug is ‘effective.’”

But since there is no safe dose for marijuana in pets, “it isn’t sensible to try and use it,” Dr. Goggs added. Especially if pets consume newer highly concentrated strains of marijuana and synthetic drugs that mimic marijuana, the results could be fatal.

Dr. Doug Kramer, a Los Angeles veterinarian who made headlines in 2013 for promoting medical marijuana in pets, said that though cannabis is effective on sick animals—he even gave it to his terminally ill dog to relieve pain and stimulate appetite—blowing smoke in animals’ faces, like Blunt did, is wrong.

“To me, it’s animal abuse, really,” he told Vice in 2013. “It kills me because it devalues what I’m trying to do. Especially in the early stages, starting the dialogue with veterinary medicine, the last thing you want is for people to do that. The dog doesn’t need the medication in that situation.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr