By Matt Ellis

“Hey—let’s get the dog stoned!”

You’ve heard it before. Hell, you might’ve even been the one who said it—at a party, or when you were bored with some friends, or maybe when it was just you and your pet and you didn’t want to smoke alone.

Whether it’s a dog, a cat, a hamster or a long-haired chinchilla, the fact is that people seem to like the idea of getting animals high. And why not? It’s not a malicious act—most times it comes from kind intentions: wanting to share with your furry (or scaly, or feathery) friend that which gives you such great pleasure.

But maybe giving reefer to Rover isn’t as good an idea as you think. Before you presume to know or dismiss the effects of pot on your pet, ask yourself these questions: Which stoner symptoms transfer over from man to beast? Do you know what to do if your dog eats an entire baggie of marijuana? And what of the ethical responsibility of owning and caring for another living being?

To understand the effects of THC on animals, we first must understand its effects on humans. THC works by attaching itself to specific receptors in the brain, which exist specifically to receive cannabinoids. The body naturally produces its own cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids) at specific times, which scientists suspect help to regulate pain relief and/or memory. Since THC and endocannabinoids share almost the same molecular structure, they can both connect to cannabinoid receptors, and thus both produce a “high” effect. Most living things possess cannabinoid receptors—including invertebrates.

This is important for two reasons: First, it means these receptors have survived at least 500 million years of evolution (dating back to the time when vertebrates and invertebrates split), implying that the function of these cannabinoids is pretty damn important; and second, it means that most everything alive can get stoned—even something as simple as a slug.