Medical marijuana laws don’t apply to pets or the veterinarians that treat them. Vets can’t prescribe medical marijuana to their patients, and even suggesting it as an option can lead to trouble. There is no formal scientific research about marijuana’s efficacy for dogs.
“The lack of oversight, quality control and utter inability to know what is actually in the product is what bothers me,” Dr. Lisa Moses, a Massachusetts-based veterinarian who serves on the board of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, says of the supplements. “In the case of hemp based supplements, the lack of knowledge about specific toxicity to animals is an additional problem.”
Understanding Current Cannabis Laws
These are not insignificant hurdles, and without peer-reviewed research, gaining an understanding about whether cannabis can help dogs or how remains difficult. “We have no safety data, no efficacy data and no dosing data,” Downing says.
Medical marijuana for pets is “good in theory,” says Dr. Robin Downing, a veterinarian and the hospital director at the Downing Center for Animal Pain Management in Windsor, Colo. Like us, dogs have cannabinoid receptors, so there is a scientific basis for thinking that marijuana could help some of the same ailments for them as it does for humans. The groundwork is there for learning more, but that’s where things get tricky.
Twenty-three states (plus the District of Columbia) have comprehensive medical marijuana laws. Another 17 allow the use of low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis products for medical use. In these states, patients know where they stand and what their options are if they want access to medical marijuana—but only if they’re human.
Other important cannabinoids include cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN). These are less psychoactive than THC, and are primarily of interest for their medicinal properties.
To understand the medicinal use of cannabis, you must learn a little about its chemical composition. Cannabis contains a variety of different active ingredients, called cannabinoids. Different cannabinoids elicit different effects in the body.
Called the endocannabinoid system, it features specialized receptors that alter the ways in which your neurons communicate once stimulated by cannabinoids.
The Science Behind Cannabinoids in Cannabis
Even though a growing number of pet owners are experimenting with canine cannabis, the plant’s legal status prevents most veterinarians from recommending its use.
Because it is such a pharmacological powerhouse for people, it is reasonable to wonder if cannabis may also treat a variety of ailments in dogs – particularly those illnesses that are difficult to treat otherwise.
Others owners have cannabis to treat their dog’s nausea or reduce the inflammation associated with bladder cancer, stimulate their dog’s appetite, address behavioral concerns, and soothe tummies plagued by irritable bowel syndrome.
While your vet may not be comfortable recommending cannabis for your pet, he or she may be able to provide important information that will inform your decision.
Sleepiness or lethargy
The bottom line: Until we know more, giving marijuana as medicine puts our pets at risk.
While most owners are embarrassed to admit that their dog is stoned, it is very important to be upfront about marijuana poisoning as the signs of toxicity so closely resemble many other neurologic conditions. Keep in mind that we cannot effectively help your pet if we do not know what we are treating.
While pets suffering from marijuana poisoning may look and act like inebriated humans, it is important to remember that they are not having fun. They are extremely anxious and neurologically impaired (see video).
The truth is, pot poisoning is real — and it’s not pretty.