POT For Pets

Teresa Garden, DVM

By Teresa Garden, DVM

As most of us are aware, marijuana use is becoming more widespread throughout the United States and Canada. Legal constraints are slowly being loosened. As of this writing, twenty eight states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing for either medical or recreational use of marijuana. Much to the dismay of many pet owners, the laws do not allow for the use of medical marijuana under the prescription of a veterinarian. Legal action could be taken against veterinarians if they did prescribe or perhaps even mention medical marijuana as a treatment option. Giving medical marijuana to your pet could result in you, the pet owner, being brought up on criminal charges of animal abuse or violation of the Controlled Substances Act. It is my fervent belief (and prayer) that this will change in the foreseeable future. I may be retired from my profession by the time it happens but I hope I am alive to see it.

Medical marijuana comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. The plant contains phytochemcials called cannabinoids which have both medicinal and psychotropic properties. THC and CBD are both cannabinoids. CBD has more valuable medical properties than THC. Cannabis plants with low THC content and high fiber are called Hemp. Hemp is not psychotropic and is considered legal in most countries.

Limited research and anecdotal reports appear to show the medicinal effects of marijuana in pets is similar to those found in humans. Medical marijuana may help with pain control, nausea, and appetite stimulation. It can provide palliative care to reduce pain and suffering in our pets with cancer. For treating cancer, CBD and THC together may be a good combination. CBD can help mitigate the side effects of chemotherapy and improve overall quality of life. Cannabinoids have been shown to act synergistically with opioids to control pain. Cannabinoids can control nausea and vomiting which can benefit our pets with Inflammatory Bowel Disease or those on chemotherapy drugs. Other possible clinical applications of medical marijuana in pets include: general anxiety, separation anxiety, thunderphobia, epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases, and myocardial ischemia.

Dogs have many more THC receptors in their brains than humans, making them extremely sensitive to marijuana. Hemp may be a safer alternative for dogs and cats since the THC content is much lower. The prescription or use of hemp extracts in pets is not against the law for veterinarians or pet owners. I have had clients use over the counter hemp products such as Canna-Pet for pets suffering from IBD and cancer. This particular product is available in a chew or capsule form. Hemp products have helped my patients eat better and have resolved nausea and vomiting. There is no doubt in my mind hemp can play a role in pain control as well.

There is still a lot we don’t know concerning medical marijuana and pets. We do not yet know effective dosing for the wide range of clinical applications of cannabis products. There are a wide variety of products such as flower buds, oils, tinctures, and extracts that may all have varying effects in the bodies of dogs and cats. Products will need to be standardized and many clinical trials will need to be done to confirm their efficacy and safety in treating various maladies in dogs and cats.

Over time, with lobbying by pet owners and veterinarians, laws can change allowing pets to benefit from medical marijuana just like their human companions. With all the blessings legalization has brought, there are concerns as well. The number of marijuana toxicity cases in pets has risen along with legal usage. Marijuana ingestion can cause toxicosis in dogs ranging from mild to severe. It is important to remember the herb must be stored safely away from pets. It is wonderful people can benefit medically from marijuana and I personally have no problem with recreational use of the drug. I just ask everyone to be a responsible pet owner. Like any drug, a little can be life saving but too much can be life threatening for all of us.

Dr. Teresa Garden is chief veterinarian/owner of Animal Health & Healing, a full-service holistic and conventional veterinary practice in the Maplewood/Richmond Heights area. 314-781-1738. www.AnimalHealthandHealing.com.