Since 1996 when voters gave physicians in certain states’ rights to prescribe medical marijuana for their patients, cannabis has become legal either for medical or recreational use, in 29 states as well as the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, under Federal law marijuana is still illegal, it is classified as a Schedule 1 Drug with a high potential for abuse and with no accepted medical use.
According to the National Cancer Institute, today people seek medical marijuana to treat and relieve symptoms of cancer, epilepsy, arthritis, pain, inflammation and anxiety. It only makes sense that pet parents are looking for similar solutions to benefit health issues in their 4-legged companions.
Consequently, veterinarians are left with the dilemma of satisfying their canine and feline needs versus breaking the law. Under current regulations, any veterinarian that prescribes marijuana to a patient would potentially face criminal charges, lose their license to practice and be sentenced to possible jail time.
Resent research conducted at Cormell University documented the fact that over 80% of dogs with severe arthritis and joint pain, experienced significant improvement when treated with cannabis versus those who received a placebo. Currently a Cannabis Cat study is ongoing.
Scientifically marijuana or Cannabis sativa has a few different components. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the fraction of marijuana that is euphoric and gets humans “high.” CBD, also referred to as cannabidiol offers a variety of healing properties without the euphoric effects. CBD compounds are legal in certain states and are being used to treat seizures and epilepsy, cancer, pain and much more. Hemp on the other hand, contains trace amounts of THC; less than 0.3% which is why products made from industrial hemp are legal to buy, sell and transport.
Today’s marijuana options, for pets run the gamut from bones and biscuits to tinctures, oils and treats. They are said to contain various levels of CBD and hemp with no THC; the fraction of cannabis toxic to pets. Signs of THC toxicity in pets include signs that mimic drunkenness; pets wobble, stumble, lose their balance and many become hypersensitive to sound. Others may vomit and in severe cases a comatose state can occur.
Many well-meaning owners give their pets pot from dispensaries. Because the THC level varies between various batches of cannabis, many pets overdose and end up in the Pet ER. In states like Colorado where pot has been legalized for several years, emergency veterinarians report dramatic increases in pets intoxicated with pot.
Even though pot for pets is yet to be legalized many vets acknowledge positive results in dogs and cats for a variety of pet health related illnesses and disorders.
The problem veterinarians face is multifold. Since pot for pets is illegal in all 50 states, veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe or offer the product to their patients.
In addition, vets face frustration because there are also no published dosages, no guidelines and most importantly no standardization or regulation of products currently on the market for pets. Another words, regardless of what labels say there is no way to know what is in any of these pet marijuana products.
This author and veterinarian has had more than once client whose pets experienced worse health issues, specifically epileptic seizures because of giving CBD labelled pet products. Cocoa was a 2-year-old Standard Poodle, who suffered with multiple epileptic seizures despite taking traditional medications. Her owner, Alissa purchased a CBD tincture that ended up making Coco’s seizures far worse.
Buyer Beware in the pet marijuana arena! Marijuana is BIG Business today and many have jumped on the wagon. Despite elaborate marketing, claims and online testimonials, true medical benefits from hemp and other pot products currently marketed for pets have been disappointing in this veterinarian’s experience.
Cannabis on the other hand, offers many health benefits to pets and the need is obvious! Veterinary Universities like Cornell will hopefully pave the way to updated federal regulations so that clinical trials, standardized dosages and regulated products with a guaranteed analysis become available for pets soon.
Pet owners need to band together and let their voices be heard across the country. Pet parents can talk to and petition local councilmen and authorities to help get legislation passed which with time would allow vets to prescribe cannabis for their patients legally.
Most state veterinary medical associations advise their members that without FDA approval, published dosages and further research … “it is considered unsafe for veterinarians to recommend marijuana to their patients.”