Medical cannabis is not just for humans anymore.
A growing industry of medical marijuana products is targeting our furry friends too. Edibles, oils and tinctures with an extract of cannabis, called cannabidiol, or CBD, are helping older, weak, injured, and sick pets deal with pain and other ailments.
But this isn’t about Fido getting into your personal edibles stash, then scarfing down a bowl of puppy chow and chilling on the couch. It’s more in line with humans who use marijuana to cope with the effects of chemotherapy during cancer treatments or for back pain and other chronic illnesses. (Another reason this is no joke pure cannabis is dangerous for pets. It can cause seizures, stomach problems, respiratory issues and other problems if inhaled or eaten.)
Two California-based companies have embraced the pain-relieving powers of CBD, which is not psychoactive meaning your dog doesn’t get high and non-toxic. These vets and product makers are also working to make these pain-reducing methods more commonplace.
Veterinary nurse Kate Scott, who works with VETCBD to treat animals with medical-grade cannabis products, says the stigma of marijuana use spills into medical care for pets. With the passage of Prop. 64 in California, however, recreational use is legal and she hopes her industry will be more accepted.
“They had never heard about cannabis for pets.”
“Honestly, people are more shocked and surprised because they had never heard about cannabis for pets,” Scott told Mashable in a phone call.
But after treating hundreds of patients, she’s seen the benefits of this lesser-known option. VETCBD’s testimonials page is filled with stories from dog and cat owners whose pets are dealing with anxiety, inflammation, nausea, pain, seizures and tumors. Take Boots from L.A., for instance. After a painful recovery from pancreatitis, Boots’ owner, Chad, said he gave the cat CBD, which resulted in “lots of purring” and a “quite spritely” pet.
Liz Hughston, a California-based registered veterinary technician and specialist who is a member of the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, told Mashable she’s seen the benefits of CBD on her own dogs. When she used CBD-infused treats for her Chihuahua-Dachshund mix, who has a fireworks phobia, he acted like his normal self, trembling much less, sitting with his owners and eating. Previous years during fireworks shows, Hughston said, she had him “pegged to 11 on the anxiety scale.”
Another of Hughston’s dogs, a 15-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, suffers from arthritis. She now gives him cannabis oil, which she says has improved his mobility. “He can make it around the block now,” while before he was spent after half a block, she said. “I call that a win.”
The Bay Area-based gourmet cannabis food company Auntie Dolores is also recognizing the potential power of CBD and capitalizing on the fact that it can be sold outside of California, since it is considered a hemp product. The store’s Treatibles products are treats infused with CBD, but they also sell pills and other companies offer a CBD oil. (Owners can buy and use these products without approval from a veterinarian but, as with any medical treatment, it’s probably wise to check in with one first.)
Auntie Dolores CEO and founder Julianna Carella told Mashable in an interview the whole “pot for pets” stigma is difficult to overcome. “Your pet isn’t getting high,” she said, is a conversation she has with customers every day.
Carella said many veterinarians are hesitant to use CBD products, but her company is working with 40 vets across the country, who are using it in their clinics. “We get support from vets who have perhaps more of an alternative approach,” she noted, such as Colorado-based CBD proponent Dr. Robert Silver.
Some in the broader veterinary community are still skeptical about using marijuana-based products for animals. ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center medical director Dr. Tina Wismer said in an interview with Mashable that her biggest concern is a lack of research into dosage and the effects of CBD products.
“Dont take your dog and blow your pot smoke in its face.”
“I think it is an amazing area that we need to do a lot of research in,” she said, noting that usage is currently based on mostly anecdotal evidence.
PETA has advocated for its use. In an article on the animal rights group’s website, it wrote: “Human caregivers have the right to speak for their animal companions and to explore alternative treatments to ease pain and suffering.”
For her part, Wismer is worried about lack of regulation of CBD products and consumers putting their blind trust in manufacturers. “When you dont have a controlling body,” she said, “quality control becomes an issue.”
Many states’ veterinary medical boards don’t allow vets to prescribe cannabis products, but clinics have to deal with clients who are already using or interested in CBD-based products to treat pets. That makes it a murky area, veterinary technician Hughston explained. At that point it’s about helping owners “use the safest products and most efficacious products on their pets,” she said. “Dont take your dog and blow your pot smoke in its face,” she reminded pet owners.
Even if attitudes around marijuana are evolving, pets will continue to lag behind their owners when it comes to reaping the pain-reducing benefits. Wismer predicts we are at least five years and many research studies away from mainstream acceptance. “The vet community really mirrors what’s going on in the human community,” she said.