When it comes to cannabis and pets, expert opinion is quite split. Some veterinarians are all for giving dogs and cats cannabidiol (CBD) oil to alleviate certain medical ailments, while some just do not recommend using cannabis or CBD at all.
In most states in the U.S., medical cannabis is an option for people who are suffering from certain health issues and who are seeking relief from various symptoms. And as more research is being done, more people are exploring how cannabis can be applied to other things — like animals.
Pet owners and veterinarians are finding that medical marijuana can also provide positive benefits for dogs and cats. Whether it is anxiety, cancer, or seizures, cannabis oil can serve as an alternative medication to help ease the symptoms.
So, if you are a pet parent and would want to try using cannabis or CBD oil for your beloved furry baby, there might be a lot of questions you want to ask your vet. Let’s try to answer some of the most common ones.
What are the benefits of CBD oil for dogs and cats?
Dogs and cats who suffer from health conditions like seizures, stress, anxiety, nausea, back pain, arthritis, gastrointestinal issues, and cancer symptoms, can benefit from a cannabis or CBD oil treatment.
It is the cannabinoids in cannabis that provide relief as they interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a series of receptors spread all throughout the body. And yes, even dogs and cats have this. These cannabinoids interact with these receptors and modulate responses to pain, anxiety, nausea, and other symptoms and conditions.
But unlike some traditional pain medication for pets, medical cannabis does not bring with it any life-threatening side effects as long as you follow the proper dosage. The dogs or cats are neither high nor sedated, and their is nothing that points to it causing damage to the kidney, liver, or gastrointestinal tract.
What symptoms does cannabis address?
One study has shown that cannabis can prevent inflammatory disorders. These include skin problems in dogs. Another study suggests that CBD possesses anticonvulsant properties, which help treat and manage seizures and which may be better than the ones found in conventional veterinary medications.
The most common applications for cannabis in pets are:
- convulsions/epileptic seizures
- chronic vomiting/nausea
- separation anxiety
- fear of thunderstorms or fireworks
- loss of appetite
- skin rash
- motion sickness
There are also pet owners who give their dogs and cats cannabis for end-of-life care.
Do dogs and cats get high the same way humans do?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive component in cannabis, has been found to cause disorientation in pets (as it does in humans). In fact, even veterinarians who support cannabis for pets always warn that THC and dogs do not mix.
The good thing is that most of the medical cannabis products that are specifically designed for cats and dogs do not contain THC or contain very little of it, and have high concentrations of CBD instead. And there have been no studies suggesting that CBD is harmful to pets.
Why don’t all vets support cannabis medication for pets?
According to University of Alberta animal science instructor Connie Varnhagen, it takes only a little quantity of cannabis to cause symptoms of poisoning in dogs or cats.
Varnhagen, who is also a veterinary nurse and is the president of the Alberta Helping Animals Society, explains that dogs have so many cannabinoid receptors throughout their body and in their brain and that this sensitive network can be easily overwhelmed by THC.
Dogs can die from the overdose, she said, adding that while people get high from weed, dogs get poisoned.
Varnhagen said that cats are likewise susceptible to cannabis poisoning. However, they are less likely to ingest it because they are pickier eaters, she further explains. Cats generally don’t have a sweet tooth and are not particularly attracted to unfinished joints or dried buds.
While there have been no reported cases of fatal cannabis overdose in humans, there have been rare cases when dogs have been known to succumb after having ingested large amounts of cannabis.
What if my vet does not support going the CBD route for my pet?
Your vet may be against cannabis as a treatment option, but it is your pet and loved one and, ultimately, it is your decision. You will have to work with your vet on what is right for your dog or cat and report the progress.
Of course, until the U.S. federal government lifts the ban on cannabis, data will always be limited. However, this does not mean that your dog’s or cat’s medical options are also limited.
How is cannabis oil administered to dogs and cats?
Most pet owners typically prefer to administer cannabis or CBD oil orally to their dogs or cats. Cannabis oil can also be used in conjunction with conventional medications and treatments.
As to the correct dosage, studies are still needed to determine the correct CBD oil dosage for dogs. The best option for pet parents is to talk to a veterinarian or to another pet owner who has had experience with treating pets with cannabis oil regarding proper dosage. Moreover, most cannabis products for pets from reliable manufacturers have dosage suggestions included in the label.