We are all too familiar with the intricacies of social gatherings and how they can stir up a cocktail of unease, but the best parties are always the ones where the host’s dog is an attending guest.
We often yearn for a tranquil and grounding presence which can help anchor us in the swirling symphony of laughter, mingling conversations, and fluttering dynamics at play—and who better provides this than a smiling pet?
Offering respite from conversation, reassurance, and a delightful distraction from any awkwardness, a jolly dog or graceful cat is a soothing balm for the soul. (And you know someone is there who will look at you with unwavering acceptance.)
When it comes to therapeutic psychedelic journeys, there are clear, potential benefits from the presence of a beloved pet, however, in this article, we will cover some important considerations.
As part of our series, The Psychedelic Connect, we interviewed the founder of VeterinaryPsy, Casara Andre, who educates and works within the intersection of animal advocacy and psychedelic research.
We will be covering the safety concerns, precautions, and general preparation and support needed when having your furry friend present during a psychedelic ceremony.
The First Step: Harm Reduction & Safety Protocols With Your Pet
As humans venture into the realm of psychedelic exploration, the risk of accidental exposure increases for animal companions who have access to our living spaces and belongings.
Pets are frequently intrigued by foods and substances intended for human use—and can be more skilled in finding and acquiring goodies in the home than we think—so storing these items properly is of the utmost importance.
Generally, psilocybin mushrooms are less of a veterinarian emergency in comparison to other psychoactives like MDMA, LSD, and ketamine. However, certain new and popular psychedelic products, like edibles and sweet treats, may contain inadvertently harmful ingredients for pets.
Psilocybin-containing chocolate bars and gummies can be enough to cause renal failure or other serious or fatal health issues in dogs and cats if those items contain chocolate or xylitol.
“There’s starting to be a lot of chocolate bars with psilocybin in them [and] gummies…That’s probably more harmful for them than, for sure, psilocybin.
Now MDMA, LSD, ketamine—some of those, if they were to get into a stash, have a higher level of medical concern.
From a psilocybin perspective, it’s just like cannabis. They’re gonna be ok. They might have a miserable night, but they’re gonna be ok.” — Casara, Medical Director & Founder
Another aspect to consider is the possibility of the journeyer vomiting during a psychedelic experience and a pet ingesting vomit that contains remnants of psychoactive compounds or harmful ingredients (as gross as that sounds).
Overall, keeping psychedelic substances securely stored, being mindful of the presence of other toxic ingredients in edibles, and creating a safe space that minimizes the chances of accidental exposure are paramount.
In this pursuit of harm reduction, it is essential to approach psychedelic experiences with a heightened sense of responsibility and awareness of potential risks when innocent animals are present.
Freedom For All Beings: How to Respect An Animal’s Autonomy
In this section, we will explore five considerations that should be taken into account when deciding whether your pet should be present for your therapeutic psychedelic experience. By carefully weighing these considerations, you can make an informed decision that supports both your own healing journey and the welfare of your animal companion.
- Assess Your Animal’s Disposition
How sensitive is your pet to your emotions and their environment? Certain pets naturally excel in roles such as service or medical alert animals, while others may struggle due to behavioral or emotional differences.
When we turn to our animal companions during challenging times, we must consider the impact of transferring our emotional energy onto them, considering whether they have the resilience to handle a supportive role.
“Just like humans can be great guides—and we know not every human is suited for a guide—there are some particular breeds and some particular souls that are really good,” Casara said.
Part of this “assessment” revolves around deciding if the pet is tuned in enough to know when you as the journeyer may need space, a calming presence, or joyful play.
Furthermore, the presence of guides or facilitators who are likely unfamiliar beings in the pet’s territory can be difficult for the pet to cope with, especially when other abnormal events are transpiring.
In other words, a pet that is hyper-alert may pose safety risks to you or the facilitator with fearful or reactive behaviors, while a totally oblivious dog may jump all over you when you are trying to cultivate silence or stillness. In summary, assessing an animal’s attunement, sensitivity, and emotional capacity is crucial when considering their role in psychedelic therapy.
Respecting their boundaries, understanding the language of touch consent, and being in tune with your pet’s level of nervousness or protectiveness can help prevent putting them in uncomfortable situations.
- Know The Risks For Your Pet
When it comes to a pet being present during a psychedelic journey, be aware of the emotional effects this may have on your animal if they are sensitive to your moods and wellbeing.
Even though many pet owners may not be aware of just how attuned their animal is, pets are aware of our shifts in mood and can even pick up on physiological changes like alterations in blood pressure and heart rate.
“If a human is going through a really emotional experience, no one has told the animal that everything is ok,” Casara pointed out.
Especially when it comes to service animals and medical alert animals, their hyperawareness of our baseline physiological parameters can lead to extra confusion and anxiety when those parameters change drastically via a psychedelic.
Regarding her veterinarian work, Casara said, “I tend to see the animals when they start to show anxiety, separation anxiety, inappropriate urination, because they are very sensitive to our emotional states and the things that happen in our households.”
Being aware of the potential signs of anxiety in your pet can help mitigate further exposure to anxiety-inducing scenarios as well as jump-start a treatment process for those issues.
- Personal Variables for the Psychedelic Experience
This brings us to the experience of the journeyer and the effects of an animal’s presence on such a vulnerable and important event. Take time to fully consider the intention behind involving the pet and whether it aligns with the therapeutic goals of the session, or if the pet could be a distraction from the intentions laid out for the experience.
Similarly to being nervous at a party and finding comfort in a pet there, journeyers may use their pets as deflections and revert to the role of caregiver. The role of psychedelic facilitators is to provide a supportive and caring environment in which you can delve into the deepest places of the mind unencumbered.
In a past article, we discussed if your partner should attend your psychedelic journey, and many of the same points apply here. We wanted to highlight this point by encouraging journeyers to choose the best setting for your healing and fully embrace being the focus of care and support during a journey, whether a pet is present or not.
- How To Prepare Animals Alongside Humans for a Psychedelic Journey
As a journeyer begins to prepare for their psychedelic experience, it is essential to consider preparation for their animal companion as well. This stage considers factors regarding the pet’s location and care during the journey, similar to deciding the setting and level of support needed for the journeyer.
Creating a safe haven for the animal is crucial during the journey. This can be accomplished by providing a dedicated space where the animal can seek solace and escape the intensity of the experience.
Whether it’s a separate room or a comfortable kennel, ensuring that the animal feels secure and protected can mitigate any later signs of traumatization or anxiety. In addition to providing a safe space, practical considerations such as feeding and walking the animal should also be addressed, planning ahead for these basic needs.
Ultimately, the key is to establish a shared understanding of the symbiotic relationship between human and animal. By attending to the animal’s needs, both beings can move through the session with a sense of safety, trust, and shared comfort.
- Help Your Pet Decompress & Integrate The Experience
Especially when it comes to service animals, it can be difficult for them to have clear boundaries of when they are allowed to be a normal pet and when they are “on duty.”
For sensitive and attuned animals, they may be alert to your needs for the entirety of the journey based on the familiarity of the relationship dynamic being temporarily disrupted, and helping them get back to their own emotional baseline may be needed.
“If we are, through the medicine…changing the physiological parameters of the human, just think about how confusing that is for the animal…Is this ok? Is my human fine? Am I supposed to be alerting them?”, Casara said.
“If you have an animal who’s not trained in that or not really connected to the guide, you can actually see a pretty significant amount of trauma,” she continued.
Even when the changes may be positive—such as a lower heart rate—the service animal may not be aware that those changes are now the new normal.
For the average pet, they may just need some lighthearted time with their owner later to feel a sense of ease and normalcy again. Overall, communicating with the animal via body language that everything is ok can help calm them.
Frequently Asked Questions About Psychedelics and Pets
What should I do if my pet accidentally ingests psychedelics?
If you suspect that your pet has ingested psychedelics, seek immediate veterinary assistance by contacting an emergency animal clinic as soon as possible.
Provide them with detailed information about the substance your pet may have consumed, including the quantity and time of ingestion. Prompt professional help can be vital in ensuring your pet’s well-being.
For cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms, these are less dire if ingested, however, when mixed with other ingredients like chocolate or xylitol (such as in edibles and gummies), it can be fatal.
Other psychedelic substances like MDMA, LSD, or ketamine are at a higher need for immediate care than cannabis or psilocybin. VeterinaryPsy offers additional information on harm reduction and exposure.
How can I prevent my pet from accessing psychedelics in my home?
To prevent accidental ingestion by your pet, it is crucial to secure all psychedelic substances and related products in a safe and inaccessible place, such as locked cabinets or high shelves. Be mindful of items like chocolate bars or gummies that may contain psilocybin, as these can be appealing to pets but contain toxic ingredients.
Interestingly, dogs and cats can be more skilled at opening doors and climbing into hard-to-reach places than toddlers, so be sure to exercise extra precautions when dealing with dexterous pets.
Is it safe to have my pet present during a psychedelic therapy session?
The decision to have your pet present during a psychedelic therapy session should be carefully considered. While pets can provide comfort and support, it is important to evaluate their attunement, sensitivity, and overall well-being.
Some animals may become overwhelmed or agitated by the intense emotional energy experienced during a session. Additionally, the presence of unfamiliar facilitators and the potential shift in energy can impact the animal’s experience.
Be sure to prioritize the welfare of both the human participant and the animal, taking into account their individual needs and ensuring a safe and conducive environment for all involved.
There may also be additional reasons why a pet may either benefit or detract from the overall experience. Consulting with professionals experienced in psychedelic therapy and animal behavior can provide valuable guidance in making this decision.
Talk to a Psychedelic Professional
We hope this article provided important insights and considerations into allowing your pet to be present during your psychedelic journey. In future articles, we will be exploring the future of psychedelics in the veterinary field as more research emerges on microdosing and psychedelic treatments for emotional and behavioral conditions in animals.
If you are interested in discovering more about psychedelics, head on over to our resources page where you will find more articles on clinical research and tips for optimizing a therapeutic psychedelic session.
Psychedelic Passage connects clients with psychedelic guides who specialize in harm reduction, preparation, integration, and ceremonial space-holding for psychedelic journeys. Book a consultation with us today to be supported in your process and get connected with our network of professional facilitators.