Medical Marijuana For Dogs: Hype Or Legit?

Medical marijuana for pets? (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

Some new faces are joining the groups pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana, and it’s not your next-door neighbor hippie college student. It’s the face of someone furry and friendly: your dog.

Nevada lawmaker Tick Segerblom (D) recently proposed a bill in the state legislature that would grant access to medical marijuana for sick and ailing pets. The bill would let owners obtain the drug for their animals if their veterinarian confirmed it “may mitigate the symptoms of effects” of a medical condition that is seriously affecting the animal’s quality of life.

While this may seem like a preposterous bill that came out of the blue, medical marijuana dispensaries and advocates of alternative healing methods have been using the drug to treat animals. Many owners claim that it has changed their pet’s life for the better.

With the legalization of medical marijuana spreading to 23 states, many specialty cannabis shops are booming and trying to break into the next market. The question is: is medical grade marijuana actually good for ailing pets or just a way for a niche market to expand their business?

The good news is, these companies seem to be doing their homework and aren’t just looking to peddle a product. When we think of medical marijuana for dogs, we aren’t talking about smoking up our pooch. In fact, many of the “marijuana” products made for pets are actually made from hemp and contain little to no psychedelic effects for your dog.

Cannabis for pets. (Photo Credit: Photo Credit: cannaforpets.com)

Canna-Pet, a pet supplement supplier based in Sultan Washington, puts it simply “We are not advocating the administration of marijuana, by any route, to animals in order to produce medical benefit or to produce any psychotropic effect. Rather, we are advocating the administration and continued research into the non-psychotropic compounds called phytocannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids for the purposes of adjunctive and palliative therapy in companion animals.”

For those of you who are not pot aficionados, here’s what they are talking about in a nutshell. The part of marijuana that gets you high is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is found in heavy concentration in the flowering portion of the plant Cannabis Sativa L. Marijuana also has a compound in it called cannabinoids, or CBD. These cannabinoids have the actual “medical” effect and can help with things such as aches, pains, lack of appetite, and vomiting.

Companies producing “marijuana” products for animals, for the most part, are extracting this CBD not from marijuana, but from hemp. Both are derived from the Cannabis Sativa L, but industrial hemp has a much lower THC level than marijuana, anywhere from 0.3%-1.5% compared to marijuana’s 5% to 10%.

Testimonies from companies selling these products offer nothing but praise. Jessica Stern of Seattle, Washington, says of her 15 year old lab cross Kaida on Canna-Pet, “Over the past year she started to suffer from neurologic dysfunction in her back legs due to intervertebral disc disease. As the disease progressed and she became weaker in the hind end, and not able to move around the way she used to, I could see the emotional toll this was having on her… I tried conventional therapies like pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and even not as conventional eastern modalities like acupuncture. Although these certainly helped, I was still looking for something to help bring the spark back into her eyes. It was at this point that I decided to try medicinal help from Canna Companion…and within a few days I could definitely see an improvement in her willingness to move around and her appetite as well. I have been using the hemp twice daily now for over a month and a half with Kaida and I am so happy that I tried it. Her quality of life has been markedly improved and I wouldn’t hesitate to try it with any of my other pets.”

Is medical marijuana legit? (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

Pet owners may be singing its praise, but what do veterinarians have to say on the matter? Individual veterinarians, such as Dr. Sarah Brandon and Dr. Greg Copas of Canna Companion, are obvious advocates. Other supporters of cannabis for companion animals, such as Dr. Douglas Kramer, had firsthand experience with the drug helping his dog. His Siberian Husky had developed terminal cancer, and in a state of exasperation, he tried medical marijuana for his dog, which he believes helped ease her pain.

Still, Dr. Kramer and other veterinarians want more clinical studies before they start writing prescriptions. Dr. Kramer told the American Veterinary Medical Association, “My position is the same as the (American Medical Association’s). We need to investigate marijuana further to determine whether the case reports I’m hearing are true or whether there’s a placebo effect at work.”

With all of this hype, it may be worth it for veterinarians to do more clinical studies on the effects of hemp and marijuana on ailing animals. At the moment, few such studies have been done. Studies have been done with rats to determine that cannabinoids help in easing nausea, but nothing was geared towards companion animals such as dogs or cats.

It’s important to note that you can’t just administer human marijuana or any other human drug to your pets. Since the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, pet marijuana poisoning is on the rise. You must consult a licensed veterinarian any time you give any drug to your dog or you run the risk of poisoning, harming or even killing your pet. It’s not a joke.

If you have an elderly or ailing pet, would you ever consider turning to holistic treatments such as “marijuana edibles” for your pets? Do you think it’s worth veterinarians looking into this potential treatment? Let us know in the comments.