Benefits and Risks of Using Cannabis for Pets

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Pooch on pot? Tabby toking? Cannabis for pets forms a whole new segment of the canna-economy. The New York Times reported, “Although they have not been approved by regulators, marijuana-based treatments are being used not only for cats and dogs, but for pigs, horses and domesticated wild animals.”

FoxNews agrees, announcing, “More people are using medical marijuana to treat pets for a variety of conditions, ranging from separation anxiety and noise phobia to cancer, according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) News.”

Still, the veterinarians warn that using cannabis products on animals requires more research. And, vets cannot prescribe cannabis for pets, even in states where marijuana has been legalized. So, what are the benefits and risks of using cannabis for pets?

First, the bad news

Enthusiasts believe that marijuana edibles and capsules can treat pet problems. After all, pets suffer from some problems that afflict people, such as arthritis, chronic pain, cancer, epilepsy, and more.  Many report anecdotes on how well their pets responded to weed care.

You certainly don’t want to pump your pet with THC. Puppy paranoia could be bad for everyone. But, the soothing, anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD are worth exploring. CBS News reported, “Despite the lack of scientific data or veterinary guidance, many pet owners are convinced cannabis has improved their animals’ health and well-being, based on their own observations.”

If you dog accidentally consumes your adult-use marijuana, you need to know that dogs do get high. According to Preventive Vet, “they experience the effects differently and more intensely than humans.” A pet under the influence is a pet in distress with observable signs like:

  • Dribbling urine
  • Walking like they’re drunk (or high)
  • Beginning to fall over while standing still
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Wide, dilated pupils
  • Easily startled by sudden sounds

You also should worry about your secondary smoke affecting your household pets. If you and your pets co-exist in a closed unventilated environment, your smoke can affect their respiration system.

While the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) has not taken an official position, it has said, “Veterinarians making treatment decisions must use sound clinical judgment and current medical information, and must be in compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations.”  And, ASPCApro, a pet poison control center, also warns of marijuana toxicosis in animals.

Then, there’s the good news

An increasing number of veterinarians are paying attention to their customers’ accounts of how their pets have benefited from treatment with cannabis medications especially formulated for pets.

Marijuana writer, Daniel Dharmer advises, “I recommend giving marijuana to pets only in consultation with a veterinarian. Use lab-tested, dose-controlled, whole-marijuana derived organic cannabis tinctures sold through a dispensary. Administer a very tiny dose and then carefully observe your pet. Tune in to your empathy, and focus on your pet’s feelings.”

Pet owners report success using small doses of cannabis edibles or mixing capsules with their food to treat pets with separation anxiety, fireworks panic, chronic pain, involuntary seizures, and digestive problems. Some have found a more positive response to the cannabis-based treatments than to the prescribed medications.

Some of the products influencing the market now all emphasize their natural or organic origins. The majority of products on the market are derived from CBD Hemp—not cannabis.

  • Canna-Pet® offers products geared to breed and ailment. They list liquids, capsules, and flavored biscuits. They claim their products are organic, whole-plant product, non-GMO, vegan, free of animal products, and preservative free.
  • Canna Companion® created products without corn, wheat, sugar, soy, or GMO. Their products are limited to capsules designed for dog size or felines.
  • Treatibles, Pet Releaf CBD hemp oil, and other advertised products are hemp, not marijuana, products.

You should note that the hemp products are classified as “supplements” which are not subject to the same testing as the cannabis products. And, according to Pet MD, “Some of the companies that make these supplements received warning letters from the FDA last year about their marketing practices, specifically that they were marketed and labeled ‘for use in the mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in animals’ without FDA approval.”

Benefits and Risks of using cannabis for pets

Unfortunately, we lack serious, quality research into the value of cannabis products for animals. The only thing we know for sure is that you cannot treat the animal’s conditions the same as you would human problems.

The anecdotes people report suggest cannabis is an effective treatment for:

  • Control chronic pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis
  • FIC/FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease)
  • Epileptic seizure frequency and intensity
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Reduce cancer-related symptoms
  • Lower separation and noise anxiety
  • Support weakened immune systems
  • And, more

But, you must take care in choice of strain, vendor, and dosage. Pets absorb the marijuana through their oral mucus. The product takes effect faster than human experience. And, negative results can be more severe.

Too many veterinarians are suffering toxic results from ingestion of marijuana product left carelessly available to their pets. But, an increasing number of vets are also promoting more holistic treatment of pets and, that, may include using cannabis-based products in combination with other therapies. Your best advice is to avoid treating your pets with cannabis unless you have informed your veterinarian.