It’s no secret that dogs share many of the same health problems as people, including anxiety, arthritis, epilepsy, and even dementia. These parallel health concerns beg the question: if the conditions are the same, can the treatment be the same as well?
Medical marijuana has become increasingly popular in recent years for the treatment of both physical and mental diseases and disorders among children and adults. With the rise of medical marijuana use, as well as legalized marijuana for recreational use, specialty cannabis shops are actively looking to break into new markets. Among these? Cannabis for animals.
What is it?
Cannabis products manufactured for pets are often made from industrial hemp, a strain of cannabis cultivated for non-drug use. While both types of the cannabis plant, marijuana and hemp, contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), hemp plants produce more CBD than THC, and vice versa. THC in marijuana is the element responsible for producing the stereotypical psychedelic effect or “high” that is in fact toxic to pets if ingested in large amounts. The CBD and THC levels in hemp do not produce this effect and have several well-documented biological outcomes, which makes hemp the prime candidate for medicinal use in both humans and dogs.
How does it work?
Like humans, animals have cannabinoid receptors that act as pathways for the plant’s effects. There are multiple methods of administration, including edibles, oils or capsules. The ideal method for each individual depends on factors such as the size of the dog, reason for use, and desirable dosage. Observation has shown that cannabis, when administrated to pets, has helped with pain relief, reduced vomiting and nausea, aided with sleep, improved skin conditions, inhibited cell growth in cancer cells, helped relieve noise phobia, and increased appetite, among many other positive effects.
Cannabis vs. prescription drugs
In most cases, veterinarians will most likely recommend conventional medicine over hemp oils and cannabis treats. Still, there is plenty of research (and many professionals will agree) that indicates giving your dog some pot may produce fewer side effects than “manmade” drugs, lessening the chances of fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting and even liver damage.
“Just as with people, pets’ needs can be varied, and cannabis has the ability to treat several conditions with the same powerful yet gentle medicine,” says Dori Dempster, Director of The Medical Cannabis Dispensary. “One of our pet members was sent home to die as there was nothing medically left to do except pain control. The vet recommended our products as they ‘couldn’t hurt at this point’, and was surprised that the dog bounced back and gave two more years of joy to the owners.”
While there is a great deal of evidence to support cannabis as an alternative treatment, further investigation is needed. Veterinarians remain hesitant in offering advice to patients regarding this touchy subject, not only because of the lack of scientific study, but because of the increased risk of marijuana poisoning in pets. Lack of professional guidance, on the other hand, may be a major cause of such incorrect use. Needless to say, the field would certainly benefit from further research and education.
Though marijuana remains illegal in Canada, hemp is completely legal, and contains the same healthy benefits. The Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary, which was recently available only to members with medical cards on file, is now accessible to any adult with valid ID due to the hemp-based nature of their products, so there’s no need to worry about hiding your dog’s “stash”.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced his goal to have marijuana legalized country-wide. Will this increase the use of cannabis products for pets? Likely. Though it won’t affect the ingredients, it may make usage less taboo, leading to an increase in therapeutic value and (hopefully) a deeper examination of long-term health effects.
Emily Watson is a writer at Redstone Media Group, and a contributor to Canadian Dogs Annual and Animal Wellness Magazine. With an English Language and Literature degree and a passion for creative writing, Emily always brings an artistic flair to her work. When away from her keyboard, she loves to teach yoga and spend time with her wife, Faith, as well as her pup Betsy, and her kitty, Molly.