We constantly hear about marijuana being effective in the treatment of certain medical conditions and in managing pain. In humans, that is. But for those who have pets, especially pets that are also suffering health-wise and pets that are in pain, the question remains: Does medical marijuana also work in animals?
According to Gary Richter, an award-winning integrative medicine veterinarian at the Montclair Veterinary Hospital and the Holistic Veterinary Care in California, and author of “The Ultimate Pet Health Guide,” marijuana can be a part of holistic approach when it comes to animal health. While he is aware of the illegality and the controversy surrounding the use of medical marijuana in pets, he said that he has seen enough anecdotal proof to believe that it does work.
Richter had even initiated a MoveOn.org petition to allow the compassionate use of marijuana for medical purposes in animals in California. The petition, which he launched earlier this year, has almost reached his 1,000-signature goal.
The late Los Angeles veterinarian Doug Kramer also said that dogs and cats that are suffering from inflammation, chronic pain, and certain other end-of-life issues must be allowed the opportunity to benefit from pot therapy.
Benefits of marijuana to pets
Some pet owners have tried using marijuana to treat seizures, digestive problems, pain, and anxiety in their pets and found it to be effective. In fact, according to a CBC News report, medical marijuana can be helpful in the treatment of pain in cats, which are typically very sensitive to pain medications and therefore make conventional treatment quite challenging.
Is marijuana safe for pets in the first place?
The main risk of using cannabis on pets is overdose. Yet most animal experts also noted that overdoses are more likely to happen when pets find their owners’ stash as compared to the intentional use of marijuana for treatment.
According to a LeafScience report in August, as marijuana laws have loosened, the incidents of pets getting into their owner’s marijuana stash also increased. In fact, from 2010 to 2015, a New York state medical center recorded a 144% increase in emergency calls for marijuana overdose in animals.
The report also stated that cases of marijuana poisoning in pets rose, too, although this only accounts for a small fraction of overall pet poisonings.
It is worth noting that because of their size, animals have the tendency to experience the effects of cannabis differently compared to humans. Moreover, medical marijuana prescribed to humans tends to be very potent and strong, and this puts pets at a great risk of overdose.
This is why most medical marijuana products that are used for pets do not contain THC or contain very little of it. They do, however, contain CBD, which is non-psychoactive and thus do not cause a high among animals.
When it comes to dogs, studies have found that the lethal dose of the active ingredient THC for them is more than 3 grams per kilogram of their body weight.
Why is pot therapy for pets still not practiced?
In the U.S. and in Canada, veterinarians cannot officially prescribe marijuana to pets because it is not recommended by veterinary regulations as veterinary medical treatment. That is why pet owners need to understand their country’s or their region’s marijuana laws first before using it on their pets.
Dr. Robin Downing, one of the leading animal pain-management specialists in the U.S., said that there is more that people do not know about marijuana therapy for pets. This kind of therapy is unproven, untried, and unregulated medicine, and with any untested therapy, there are increased risks.
She agrees with the American Veterinary Medical Association that there is still a need for studies before veterinarians can practice pot therapy for animals.