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Your Dog on Drugs (6/16/03)

     One of the more interesting things you get to see in web server logs is search phrases: When somebody connects to the site from a search engine, I get a record of what word or words they searched for that brought them to the site. Sometimes the logs are unsurprising (there have been a lot of hits from 'ecstasy statistics'), but sometimes truly odd things show up. One of those odd things has been the persistent appearance of search phrases to the effect of 'can I give my dog such-and-such drug?'

      Well, since there seems to be an unhealthy level of interest, an answer: How a dog's biology works (including their brain) is at the chemical level almost identical to humans. What will kill pain in humans will kill pain in a dog, and what intoxicates humans will intoxicate dogs. Veterinarians even prescribe things like Prozac for neurotic dogs, etc.

     The tricky part isn't so much determining what a human drug will do in a dog (or other animal), but how strongly it will act. For instance, dogs have a particular sensitivity to caffeine, making consumption of caffeine potentially lethal at doses that wouldn't bother humans. Even when the drug has similar potency in man and beast, judging dosages properly can be a bit of a tricky business unless you're a vet or otherwise trained; dosages roughly scale according to weight (so a 30 kg dog might take about half the dose of a 60 kg human) but that isn't a perfect solution.

     Another issue with psychoactive drugs is that there's a big difference between a human choosing to take a drug with some knowledge and expectation of what it will do to them and drugging an animal who doesn't know and can't understand what's about to happen to them. As a result, even if you enjoy a drug, your pet may not thank you for sharing. Some people say their pets enjoy marijuana smoke (which may well be; a dog can almost certainly get stoned) but in general drugging your pet probably isn't in their or your best interests.