Veterinarian Says Cannabis May Provide Relief for Dogs

A lack of research prevents pet organizations from endorsing medicinal marijuana for pets, but veterinarians are acknowledging cannabis’s therapeutic potential.

Cannabis may be therapeutically beneficial to dogs, according to a Massachusetts veterinarian. Dr. Steven Ellis of Sunderland Animal Hospital in Sunderland, Massachusetts, recently told his local news outlet Western Mass News that cannabis has been used to help in the treatment of canine seizures, spinal problems, and cancer.

“[Marijuana] does have some definite applications,” Dr. Ellis said. “It hasn’t been studied in the same way as it has been in people, because it’s still an illegal substance for the most part.”

The lack of research has kept the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) from officially endorsing cannabis for animals. As a result, veterinarians are unable to prescribe medical marijuana to pets.

Cannabis is federally illegal under the United States law, but over recent years, 25 states have adopted medical marijuana legislation and four states have legalized adult use marijuana. As laws have loosened, polls show that national attitudes regarding cannabis use are accordingly shifting toward acceptance.

Several cannabis pet products such as edibles, capsules, and biscuits have hit the market. Unlike marijuana products, which are subject to federal and state law restrictions, products containing cannabis oil that is derived from hemp are subsequently low in the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and are legal in all 50 states throughout the United States.

The products derived from hemp naturally contain higher amounts of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound that has been shown to possess pain-relieving, anti-seizure, anti-tumor, anti-anxiety, and anti-inflammatory effects. Because CBD is not psychoactive, it won’t produce a high in humans or pets.

An estimated 1-5 percent of all dogs experience the incidence of seizures. The canines with seizure disorders are most commonly treated with the prescription drug phenobarbital, which is recommended by the World Health Organization for the treatment of epilepsy but carry serious side effects, like long-term liver damage, dizziness, confusion, and lethargy.

“I have a friend who has been using CBD oil on her aging dog and she says it is working, he is sleeping better,” Littleton, Colorado, resident and dog owner Leslie Padzick told NBC news affiliate 9News. “I wish a veterinarian could prescribe it for my dog, I wish I knew just how much to give him. It’s not like I’m giving my dog a joint, that’s not what I’m doing. It’s not a big party- it’s another medicinal option. And I want to know more.”

In an article published on PETA website, Dr. Amanda Reiman, the California policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), acknowledged that cannabis shows potential as an alternative treatment for easing pain and suffering in pets. California veterinarian Dr. Douglas Kramer interviewed at least two-dozen pet owners that reported their pets with cancer experienced an increased appetite and reduced anxiety following medical marijuana treatments.

“There are definitely reasons to believe the active ingredient in marijuana affects certain pain mechanisms in the nervous system,” Dr. Lisa Moses, veterinarian and board member of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, told DVM Newsmagazine. “It’s something I would definitely be interested in trying if it was available to me.”

As of now pet owners can get guidance on, but no prescriptions for, medical cannabis products for their animals. However, CBD products derived from hemp are legal to purchase throughout the United States and have represented a growing market in recent years. Find out more about CBD for pets.