The Future of Cannabis For Pets
Cannabis can have real benefits for all animals, though your veterinarian may not (legally) be able to recommend it.
Since all animals have endocannabinoid systems, it makes sense that cannabis medicine would also work for your pet. However, cannabis research is a relatively new field for humans and even newer for their companions. Though medical cannabis is legal in the majority of states, no veterinarians in any state can legally prescribe even non-psychoactive cannabis. Despite these legal hurdles, veterinarians and pet owners alike have presented a compelling case for why you should give your pet cannabis. Here’s what we can expect the future of veterinary marijuana to look like.
Your Furry Friend Also Has An Endocannabinoid System
Humans aren’t unique in the way they interact with cannabis. Everything from a schnauzer to a snail has an endocannabinoid system. This means that you and your pet have endocannabinoid receptors throughout the body that respond to the body’s naturally occurring endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters. Cannabis, hence its name, also naturally produces endocannabinoids, which your body responds to upon ingestion.
We don’t yet understand the full scope of the endocannabinoid system. However, we know that its crucial to maintaining equilibrium, or homeostasis within the body. This makes it integral in inflammation, fertility, mood and innumerable other bodily processes in all animals.
It’s due to this system that marijuana can reduce inflammation, chronic pain, seizures, cancer risk, depression, skin conditions and much we don’t yet understand. Since pets have the same endocannabinoid system and suffer from many of the same conditions, why can’t it help them, too?
There are, of course, differences in the ways in which animals and humans absorb cannabis. You’re a lot bigger than most pets, and your digestive tract and liver have evolved to process different foods. The same is true for dogs, horses, birds and any other pet.
Veterinarians Are Researching Cannabis for Pets
A basic understanding of human and animal biology, and expanding anecdotal evidence more than suggest that we need more studies on veterinary cannabis. Yet due to prohibitive laws on pet medical marijuana, there is a serious lack of research. Despite these limitations, here’s what promising studies have shown so far.
A 2013 study at the University of Maryland found that cannabinoids reduced osteoarthritic pain in rodents. Dr. Stephanie McGrath, a neurologist and Colorado State professor, has been studying cannabis’ effects on dogs for years. She is currently analyzing data from a clinical trial on cannabidiol for dogs with osteoarthritis and another on cannabis for dogs with epilepsy.
According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association results have been favorable enough to win her an American Kennel Club grant of $350,000. Dr. McGrath explained, “We could see this is a much-needed area of research, and whether it shows CBD helps or not, it’s still very important since people are giving it to their pets,” she explained.
The Cannabis in Veterinary Medicine Symposium has also announced two studies on chronic pain in dogs and chronic intestinal disease in cats.
Anecdotal Evidence We Have On Cannabis For Pets
Though word of mouth evidence isn’t the same thing as a clinical trial, many, including veterinarians, attest to the incredible benefits cannabis can have for pets. We spoke with Dr. Sarah Brandon of Canna Companion, a cannabis education and CBD company.
“My husband, he has some pretty significant joint injuries from sports issues and is allergic to opioids and anti-inflammatories,” Dr. Brandon explained. “We happened to have a rottweiler at the time who had hip issues, and we only had access to marijuana, so that’s what we gave him.”
After experiencing the benefits of cannabis firsthand, Dr. Brandon and her husband, Greg Copas, spent decades researching non-psychoactive—meaning that it doesn’t get you high—cannabis for pets. They also offer a free consultation and often speak on the subject in a university setting.
Countless times, Dr. Brandon has seen cannabis’ positive effects. “A thirteen-year-old golden retriever who couldn’t get up and walk down the driveway might be able to walk around the block, slowly and on a cool day ,” she explained. Marijuana can reduce arthritic pain in humans and dogs, too.
Most Cannabis For Pets Is Still Illegal, For Now
More and more people are choosing to give their pets some form of cannabis medicine. Despite this trend, the DEA remains a major roadblock to advancement. As it stands, it is illegal for veterinarians to prescribe medical cannabis (this doesn’t mean that you can’t do research on your own, or talk with a veterinarian about it). Additionally, CBD originating from certain parts of the marijuana plant is still illegal federally. This complicates clinical research and the process of getting the right kind of cannabis medicine.
Despite these obstacles, many veterinarians see cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy, nausea, depression and pain in pets. You can find quality CBD for your pet through companies like Canna Companion and Applied Basic Science Corp, the CBD Dr. McGrath used in her research. Soon, more research like Stephanie McGrath’s, and more awareness, will hopefully lead to medical progress.
As we mentioned earlier, it is important to remember that animals and humans metabolize cannabis differently. This means that you should not give your dog a THC edible or exhale smoke near their nose. Though not fatal, it can disorient them and make them anxious.