Pot for pets: Should veterinary medicine embrace cannabis?

Pets, like humans, are riddled with many pathologies which require treatment that pot can help with.

From chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and PTSD to arthritis, dementia, and IBS, they are not immune to the conditions that plague humans. Pot for pets: Should veterinary medicine embrace cannabis? Let’s delve a little further.

Humans have been using pot to treat their symptoms over the course of many years, with users citing the plant as a miracle for their relief. However, does cannabis provide the same relief for pets as they do for humans?

Studies halted by federal regulations

As Canada edges closer to recreational legalization, Canadians vets are also seeing an upswing of marijuana cases in pets.

The effects of cannabis on animals is not well studied to date. While studies have been done, there is nothing that indicates long term progress, thanks to the US federal government’s embargo on studies with marijuana.

An American study in 2012 by a small group of researchers reported increased rates of toxicity in dogs living in Colorado, one of the first states to legalize marijuana. It reported dogs are more sensitive to the active compounds in marijuana than people. Cats on the other hand, seemed too fickle to eat anything and were generally averse to eating marijuana.

Many advocates, however, tout cannabidiol (CBD), the therapeutic compound of cannabis, as a viable treatment for pets. But according to many studies, some medical CBD products contain enough THC to produce toxicity in pets.

Side effects, when affected, include excessive salivation, drowsiness, fast or slow heart rate, dilated pupils, low body temperature, wobbling, pacing, agitation, vocalizing, vomiting, inappropriate urination, and sound or light sensitivity.

Vets are not told of marijuana toxicity

Still, many pet owners are taking it upon themselves to medicate their pets with CBD products and not disclosing it to their vets.

“Disclosing means less money is spent … and the appropriate care can be given,” says Dr. Kevin Cosford, a board-certified specialist in small animal internal medicine at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

Disclosure is also important because the signs of marijuana toxicity can mimic other toxicity, like when an animal ingests antifreeze. Both toxicities can result in similar onset of symptoms.

“[Vets] need to know the difference because they are treated very differently,” says Cosford.

It also creates a problem since owners don’t know dosing methods and wing what is given to their pets, which can be lethal for the animal.

However, most vets are not averse to cannabis treatment. They just want more studies and clinical trials before they are allowed to prescribe in everyday practice.

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s policy-making body said last summer it wants the DEA to declassify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug “to facilitate research opportunities for veterinary and human medical uses,” after seeing potential benefits of CBD. The DEA has not addressed their request as yet.

Health Canada has also yet to approve cannabis treatment in pets in Canada.