Cannabis for Pets: What We Know So Far
Can it be used for medicating pet anxiety?
According to anecdotal evidence, people have found that medical marijuana for pets reduces pain, increases a lagging appetite, and helps blunt anxiety. Many credit it with adding years to their pets’ lives. People have been using it to treat everything from reactivity to cancer.
Uses of Cannabis for Pets
While there are some topical treatments, most of the pet products are edible. They may come in the form of a tincture or infused treats. Tinctures are often favored because they can have a set amount of cannabinoids and be easier to administer.
Pet-focused cannabis products have been springing up wherever marijuana is legal to sell. California has seen many products created recently, as Prop. 64 has legalized possession for adults with a valid card. There are producers willing to sell to you if you don’t have a legal prescription yourself and willing to send products even to areas where cannabis is a restricted substance.
There are some companies turning their research efforts towards pet-focused cannabis. This could provide valuable research into proper dosages and effects of cannabis products on pets.
There isn’t a lot of scientific literature out there that examines specific medical effects on pets. The few that currently exist mostly focus on the effects of overdose. Right now, we don’t have any studies that tell us for sure what dose a pet needs based on its size, age, species, or illness.
Pets can overdose on marijuana and cannabis products, even fatally. Pets can be affected by THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the same psychoactive component that makes people ‘high’. Symptoms include lethargy, unresponsiveness, vomiting, dizziness, or ‘spaciness’.
The fact that many of these products are considered ‘supplements’ means that they are not held to the same standards as other products. Cannabis can interact with a variety of medications and, while there are some indications that this interaction may be beneficial in some circumstances, there is a risk that the interaction could be harmful.
Another problem is the precarious position that marijuana and cannabis products hold legally. Different states have different laws. Possession of marijuana ranges from legal for adults to a felony. Even in places where it is legal, you would have to be able to legally purchase marijuana for your own use to legally purchase cannabis products for your pet.
It may also be illegal for your veterinarian to seriously discuss the use of cannabis for your pet, never mind prescribing it. Until the laws evolve to provide legal protections for animal medical professionals, the likelihood that a veterinarian can prescribe medical marijuana for your pet is remote.
Lastly, the pet cannabis market is largely unregulated. You may not be getting what the seller says you are and that can make a big difference to your pet. Sellers may also not have enough experience to properly advise you on the dosage or warn you about possible side effects and interactions.
While there is a growing amount of information that indicates that cannabinoids may help dogs and cats, research has not been conducted enough for us to know just how much they can help. Also, effects may vary depending on the pet. Where you live, your medical situation, and your medical professional may have just as much influence on your pet’s access to cannabis as it does yours.
With any unregulated substance, there is a risk of inexperienced, uninformed, and unscrupulous persons producing products that don’t work or, worse, seriously harm your pet. If you decide to go the medical marijuana route for your pet, please be careful.
Consult your vet, talk with reputable companies, and be very conservative with your use of such products. If you are living or administering the substance in an area where the possession of marijuana is restricted or illegal, you may not be protected by law.
We look forward to more research into this substance that will tell us exactly what cannabis can do for our pets and provide more access for pet owners to a substance that has the potential to be of great benefit to them.
References & Resources
Butcher, Anne. "Cannabis for Canines." Reason, vol. 48, no. 2, June 2016, p. 64. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.viu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie&db=aph&AN=114741877&site=ehost-live.
THOMPSON, SARAH, ANTHONY MACDONALD, and JOYCE MOULLAKIS. "Tutorial on Pet Cannabis." The Australian Financial Review, 2017.