Medical cannabis appears to be a helpful solution for many people suffering various ailments. But what about your pets? What are marijuana effects on dogs and cats, and how do those effects differ from traditional pharmaceuticals? Those are tricky questions, and as always when it comes to medical cannabis, opinions often clash.
The laws concerning medical cannabis apply only to human beings. A veterinarian isn’t allowed to prescribe cannabis as a treatment for your pet. The main reason for this is the lack of scientific research and testing on the subject, which has yet to prove whether cannabis is definitively safe or beneficial for pets.
Dogs have cannabinoid receptors just like human beings, which means that, in theory, it’s possible they react similarly to cannabis. Only without proper research, we’re unable to say how their bodies actually react to cannabis, and if it would truly help manage their pain or illnesses.
Hemp products for pets
As you might have noticed, cannabis products are available for your pets online and even in some local grocery and pet stores. Such products are made with hemp, which isn’t the plant used for smoking. Hemp contains very little THC, and federal law requires that industrial hemp contain less than 0.3% of THC by dry weight.
Hemp appears to have medical properties because of the CBD it contains. Because you can’t get high from hemp, and because it’s also used in goods like the ecologically friendly clothes, it’s subject to different regulations than THC-heavy cannabis products.
According to an article published on AmericanVeterinarian.com, cannabis products, some even containing THC, are beneficial for dogs. Owners have witnessed positive effects on their dogs, who reportedly seem to be in less pain, and appear happier. But we still don’t know anything about the longterm effects, or what would happen if a dog receives too many drops of hemp oil.
To that point, the article includes this disclaimer: “the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has no formal position regarding the veterinary use of medical marijuana but does agree that more studies are needed.”
Can you trust these hemp products?
Since products made from hemp are legal, they can be readily purchased and consumed. But before doing so, you must think about the fact that they don’t undergo the same testing as pharmaceuticals do. Also, dosing may be difficult since the lack of proper research and testing makes nailing down product benefits a bit of a guessing game.
Moreover, in 2015 the FDA sent warning letters to some manufacturers of hemp supplements for dogs because of their marketing practices. Some manufacturers marketed their products as being safe and 100% effective, but without rigorous testing such claims may not necessarily be true. It turned out that some products that were tested by officials didn’t even contain CBD, which means they weren’t of any advertised use.
According to some pet owners and veterinarians, hemp can be used to treat or ease the pain from sprains, torn ligaments, bone breaks and other ailments. It might be possible to reduce the dosage of pharmaceutical drugs by giving some hemp to your dog (though we recommend consulting with your veterinarian first). Also, the CBD may help ease the side effects of the drugs. Of course every dog or cat will react differently to hemp products. And it might be unsafe to reduce the dosage of the prescribed drugs, risking to cause greater harm to your pet.
A study, issued in 2016 by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University, details why people buy hemp products for their dogs and cats, and what their observation about the effects is. For example, more than 38% of the people who answered the survey indicated that hemp helped ease their dog’s pain. When it comes to the side effects for dogs, sedation seems to be the biggest one, with over 19% of the respondents indicating it as a significant effect.
A little warning
THC-laden cannabis is unsafe for dogs and other pets. So if you have a stash of smokable products, edibles, or other cannabis products at home, make sure your pets cannot reach them. Poison control centers often receive reports of pets eating their owner’s cannabis stash. This can induce, among other things, vomiting, muscle twitching, incontinence, low or high heart rate, trouble breathing and unconsciousness. It’s incredibly important to take your dog the the veterinarian immediately if s/he ate something containing THC, even if you don’t see any signs of intoxication.