Medical marijuana may have long-term benefits for pets; it could even transform veterinary medicine. But little knowledge exists about the use, role, risk or potential for cannabis in pets, which is why vets are now pushing for clinical trials on the drug.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) along with other members of the animal health and welfare community, met with Health Canada last Wednesday to discuss the future of medical cannabis for pets.
The hope is that the clinical trials help cement what some makers of cannabis-laced pet remedies claim; cannabis is a gentle alternative for pets who suffer from some debilitating conditions.
In Canada or the U.S., interest in medical marijuana is overwhelming, yet hardly any research has been done by veterinary researchers or schools of veterinary medicine.
When the federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced last year that even cannabidiol (CBD) extracts—the non-intoxicating component of marijuana—is an illegal Schedule 1 drug, it made it difficult for scientists to receive the blessing, and funding, for CBD research. Major academic institutions don’t want to cross federal boundaries just to give animal patients access to the whole hemp plant extract. They’re left begging Washington to allow for such research to go ahead, although some Colorado institutions might be the biggest exception to this.
Aiming to address this gap is the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine with their latest endeavour, an anonymous survey of pet owners to find anecdotal evidence of pet owners treating their animals with medical cannabis. They want to know what kinds of products are in use, what the owners perceive as being benefits and what they determine are the side-effects. It’s hardly a sophisticated study, but it’s a start.
Researchers with the school are already inferring from the data that medical marijuana may have long-term advantages for pets. And from the reports they have gathered, it’s non-psychoactive CBD products, that pet owners are using to reduce anxiety, pain and seizure disorders felt by their fur babies.
Regarding adverse side effects, there is such a thing as a lethal dose of THC—something humans don’t experience—which is why the dose and product type is critical. Dogs and cats don’t metabolize THC like their human owners and therefore can prove toxic to some animals. While CBD-based supplements might be fine, a pet that accidentally gets into a package of his human’s edibles could be in for a long, bumpy ride.
Until we have sufficient research, there is no way of knowing for sure what is undeniably safe for animals and what isn’t. Furthermore, until marijuana is legal, vets cannot prescribe medical marijuana for their patients without risk of losing their license to practice.
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.