Reports show that more Americans than ever are in favor of legalizing cannabis, not only for medical purposes, but for recreational purposes as well. As acceptance of the legitimate use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has grown, so has curiosity about whether it might be useful in treating suffering pets as well.
While veterinarians have largely been hesitant to enter into the debate over whether marijuana is appropriate for use by pets, the general consensus seems to be that, if nothing else, the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treating a variety of conditions experienced by pets is an worthy of further study. As with use to treat the human population, use to treat animals has been somewhat controversial as well.
Not all vets have shied away from the debate, however. Dr. Douglas Kramer, a California vet, advocates the use of medical cannabis for his patients in some circumstances. He suggests that the drug may be a viable treatment alternative for animals suffering from chronic pain, postoperative pain or those in their final days and weeks of life. When his own dog, a Siberian Husky named Nikita, was dying from terminal cancer, he admits to having fed her small amounts of marijuana to stimulate her appetite and ease her suffering prior to her passing.
While he says he cannot officially instruct the owners of his patients that they should provide their pets with marijuana, he does discuss the possibility of its use in general terms with them, and in terms of what some people have done and the results that they have witnessed. Even in states where medical marijuana has been legalized for human use, it remains illegal for use in animals. Dr. Kramer hopes that further research will be conducted into what he thinks may be a viable option to relieve the suffering of pets that are in pain or dying.
Dr. Kramer isn’t the only vet to take this position. A Washington-based vet, Dr. Sarah Brandon, has also been convinced that medical cannabis can be of use in the treatment of certain conditions such as chronic pain, arthritis, and nausea in pets. After much research and experimentation, she and her husband have even developed a cannabis-like supplement for pets, known as Canna-pet, that contains many of the same chemical components known to be beneficial in pot but without the creation of a high that may be problematic in animals. They report that one or two of the hemp-based pills per day have made a world of difference for many of the pets consuming the supplements and that they are 100 percent legal.
Dr. Brandon and others caution that the use of marijuana to treat pets can be problematic. While generally not lethal, pets can easily overdose on the substance and experience a series of unpleasant symptoms including disorientation, dizziness paranoia, excessive salivation, and in rare cases serious neurological disturbances. Pet owners are warned that if they do treat their pets with medical cannabis, they should be cautious. They are also encouraged to avoid leaving their own marijuana, whether for recreational or medical use, in areas where pets, particularly dogs, can get access to it. Overdoses among dogs indulging in the marijuana containing treats of their owners have become increasingly common.
By Michele Wessel