When Weird, Old-Timey Big Pharma Got Dogs Stoned For Science

When Weird, Old-Timey Big Pharma Got Dogs Stoned For Science

Warning: This story involves adorable dogs getting very, very high.

In the late 1800s, the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company was basically the biggest weed dealer in America.

They promoted their cannabis medicines across the continent, proudly advertising that they rejected literal tons of shwaggy weed each year and used only the dankest primo nugs for their pot products.

“Our competitors sell the shit weed we reject.” – Ad in the Lancet, 1899

Cannabis' active ingredients were not fully understood at this time. THC and other cannabinoids had not yet been isolated, so there was no way to chemically test extracts for their potency.

This made dosages for cannabis medicines very difficult to standardize. Parke-Davis would have some doctors complaining that their extracts weren't doing anything, while others had patients taking hallucinatory voyages while trying to treat their arthritis pain.

Parke-Davis tried to solve this problem by launching their dog testing program in 1898. This is the "physiological test" referred to in their ad above. Over the next four decades, thousands of dogs were fed cannabis extracts and examined until they passed out.


“I’m intrigued by your proposal...”

I don't know why Parke-Davis had to use dogs when I'm sure there would have been plenty of humans willing to consensually nom down cannabis treats all day and then report back on the results. An article from 1899 called "Trying it on the dog" explained that researchers could tell when the cannabis was taking effect because the dog "gets dopey, staggers in its walk and eventually keels over and dreams dreams."

Dog Testing Protocols:

In 1908, Parke-Davis researchers published an article in the American Journal of Pharmacy which detailed the methods they used to test cannabis products on dogs. They preferred medium-sized, short-haired dogs under 30 pounds. Fox terriers were considered ideal.

State Farm/Wiki Commons

Apparently, science says this is the best dog to get stoned with.

We'll let Parke-Davis's article speak for itself:

It is necessary in selecting the test animals to pick out those that are easily susceptible to the action of cannabis since dogs as well as human beings vary considerably in their reaction to the drug.

The dog's tongue is drawn forward between the teeth with the left hand, and the capsule placed on the back part of the tongue with the right hand. The tongue is then quickly released, and the capsule is swallowed with ease.

Why they couldn't just wrap the hash capsule in bacon, we'll never know. It's almost like they didn't care for the welfare of these dogs or treat them very well. After getting dosed up, the dog would go through three stages: excitability, incoordination, and drowsiness. Honestly, that sounds like a pretty good evening. Researchers were less focused on the excitability phase and more on measuring how long it took for a dose to knock the dogs unconscious.

After one to two hours the dog loses control of its legs and of the muscles supporting its head, so that when nothing occurs to attract its attention its head will droop, its body sway, and when severely affected, the animal will stagger and fall, the intoxication being peculiarly suggestive and striking.

To do the analysis properly, they needed to dose several dogs multiple times each, with extracts of known potency and then with the new product they were trying to calibrate.

However, they warn against using the same dogs too many times because "they become so accustomed to the effects of the drug that they refuse to stand on their feet."


We've been there. We feel ya dog.

Killing Spot With Pot:

Here's the headline. The Parke-Davis gang repeatedly tried to kill dogs by injecting them with massive doses of high-potency cannabis extracts. They wanted to cause deadly overdoses, but no matter how high the dose, they just couldn't do more than knock the dogs into a coma for a day or two. 

At the beginning of our observations careful search of the literature on the subject was made to determine the toxicity of the hemp. Not a single case of fatal poisoning have we been able to find reported, although often alarming symptoms may occur.

A dog weighing 25 pounds received an injection of two ounces of an active U.S.P. fluid extract in the jugular vein with the expectation that it would certainly be sufficient to produce death.

To our surprise, the animal, after being unconscious for about a day and a half, recovered completely. This dog received not alone the active constituents of the drug but also the amount of alcohol contained in the fluid extract.

Another dog received about 7 grams of Solid Extract Cannabis with the same result. We have never been able to give an animal a sufficient quantity of a preparation of the Cannabis to produce death.

They injected dogs with weed extracts and fed them blocks of hash, but the dogs just would not die. I wonder what extradimensional visions a dog would have during a 36-hour cannabis coma. If animals could talk, I suspect these canines could have started a new religion.

And I'm sure that after all this testing was over, the dogs all got sent to a nice farm upstate where they lived out their days frolicking and being good dogs ... right? Right?



So there you go. Just like with humans, massive doses of cannabis extracts knocked the canines into a comatose state but didn't kill them no matter how hard they tried. Note: This is not an invitation to get your furry friend extremely baked but should be reassuring to any dog owners worried about their beloved pooch getting a contact high from your bong.

For more from Dana Larsen, read his weedy writings at PotheadBooks.com and follow his hot takes (and hot tokes) at twitter.com/danalarsen.

Top Image: MolnarSzabolcsErdely/Pixabay


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