As medical marijuana continues to gain legitimacy, cannabis patients are turning to medical marijuana for their pets and seeing similar results.
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Just as cannabis has been a veritable panacea in humans, its benefits for pets, though less documented, is also becoming clear. Whether it is to treat Fido’s arthritis or help Spot’s separation anxiety, pet owners have begun experimenting with cannabis for a range of ailments in their pets.
Cannabis’s therapeutic benefits come from the plant’s ability to interact with the body’s naturally occurring regulatory processes, managed by the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining balance within the body, including regulating the body’s immune response, communication between cells, and appetite and metabolism. Cannabinoids, like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), bind to endocannabinoid receptors in the body, affecting the body’s functions.
Early studies reveal that most vertebrates seem to have an endocannabinoid system, including all mammals, leading some researchers to believe it was developed by a common ancestor early in evolution. In fact, many studies done on cannabinoids are animal models, with the experimentation often done on mice and rats, which share the endocannabinoid system with humans. Because of the similarities between the endocannabinoid systems of humans and animals, chances are your furry (or not so furry) friend could find benefit from cannabis.
With this in mind, many companies have come out with cannabinoid infused medical cannabis products directed at pets, often selling them in medical marijuana dispensaries alongside products intended for humans. However, state medical marijuana laws don’t apply to animals. Veterinarians are not authorized to prescribe cannabis for pets, and the FDA does not approve cannabis based products for pets, going so far as to send warning letters to companies marketing the health benefits of these products.
One of the fears associated with medical marijuana for pets is the possible toxicity of THC on small animals and the worry that it is unethical or abusive to get your animal high from marijuana’s psychoactive properties. Some pet owners navigate around this issue by using CBD hemp oil, which is naturally low in THC, in their products.
A lawmaker in Nevada proposed a bill in 2015 that would allow pet owners in the state to legally give cannabis products to their pets with a veterinarian’s approval. However, that bill died in the legislature when it failed to get a hearing.
Despite the obstacles, pet owners more and more are turning to cannabis as an option for their pets. Testimonials online from owners who have tried medical cannabis for their pets list observing relief from arthritis pain, anxiety, cancer pain, and seizures.
When looking at animal model studies, the possible benefits of cannabis for pets becomes clearer. In experiments done on rats, it has been shown that cannabinoids reduce pain and fight joint inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. Researchers found that cannabinoids can reduce inflammation from a number of conditions, including colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Cannabinoids have also been found to be effective as therapeutic agents for cancer, capable of slowing the growth and spread of cancerous cells, as well as minimizing the negative side effects of popular cancer treatments. Studies also suggest that CBD is as an antidepressant and is effective for fighting anxiety, good for pets with separation anxiety or that fear loud noises, like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Some pet owners add CBD to their pet’s meals as a daily supplement for chronic ailments or to promote general well-being. Pet owners may also find that vitamins and minerals present in CBD hemp oil match the requirements of their pets, including vitamins A, B12, C, and E, calcium, phosphorous, and potassium. For acute or specific occasions, owners report using larger single doses.
Veterinarians are split on whether cannabis should be used to treat pets, much as doctors are with the use of cannabis in humans. While some warn of the dangers of cannabis for pets, others have embraced the possibilities CBD may hold. Dr. Kramer, a vet in California who surveyed pet owners who have used CBD in pets, reports that cannabis is already being used by owners for a range of symptoms, like separation anxiety, IBS, feline immunodeficiency virus, arthritis pain, nausea, and seizures.
A common refrain from most veterinarians seems to be an urge for more clinical studies to better understand how cannabis or cannabinoids work in pets. This parallels the call from physicians for more research into the effects of cannabis on humans. As normalization of the use of cannabis continues and regulations restricting marijuana research in this country are eased, it is likely that the clinical studies needed to prove the safety and efficacy of cannabis in humans and pets will finally be approved.