Pets & Cannabis: Things to Know
Provisions for pet cannabis products continues to grow in the medical and recreational market. Most marijuana infused pet products are high in CBD, or set to certain ratios dependent on your furry friend's reason for relief. Like these tinctures by Treatwell. Mammalian pets in particular, like dogs or cats, are the most common companions that are given cannabinoids. This is due to the endocannabinoid system being present in their anatomy, similar to humans. Below you'll see two charts, one of the human anatomy and ECS, and the other a canine anatomy and the ECS.
Due to many similarities, both humans and their pets can experience the benefits of the cannabis plant. However, as human beings we experience the effects of consuming weed on a different level than our pets. Therefore, we sourced some great points and information to know before you start, from this great Leafly article by LA author Hayley Fox:
1. It’s Illegal for Vets to Prescribe Cannabis to Pets
"Vets don’t have the authority to prescribe a Schedule I drug...vets in many states are barred from counseling pet owners on the potential therapeutic uses of cannabis." Hayley interviewed Dr. Greg Richter, a veterinarian in California, and Dr. Rob Silver, a holistic vet and pet herbalist in Colorado. Richter says, “Right now it’s a conversation that has to be had very, very carefully between veterinarians and pet owners so nobody gets into legal jeopardy.”
Hayley continues, "Silver added that because many veterinarians risk their licenses and criminal prosecution for prescribing cannabis to pets, they have to be very careful in how they talk about the plant. “As far as our First Amendment freedom of speech to speak directly about this,” he said, “if we’re not giving medical advice—if we’re giving educational information—it’s a much easier situation.”
In California, Richter has been leading the push for legislation that would legalize “compassionate use” of cannabis for animals in the same way the state has approved medical cannabis for humans. He’s created an online petition calling for a change that would allow vets to “provide guidance to people regarding the safe and effective use of cannabis for their pets.”
Vets risk facing disciplinary action if they have any “involvement in the treatment of an animal with marijuana or hemp,” the petition notes. And according to California’s Veterinary Medical Board, in the event of a complaint related to a vet’s treatment of a pet with hemp or cannabis, the board “would be obligated to conduct an investigation and take appropriate disciplinary action if the findings so warranted.”
2. Don’t Calculate Dosage as if Your Pets Were Just Small Humans
Trying to take a human-size dose of cannabis and extrapolate dosage for animal use is an “invitation for disaster,” warned Richter, noting that over-consumption of THC can cause serious health risks in pets. Most issues arise when pets simply break into their owners’ own stash, indiscriminately consuming the cannabis, but careless dosage can also cause problems."
To avoid a ticket to the emergency room, Richter said, start by choosing the right product for your animal’s needs and then start slowly. As you increase the dose, be careful to observe any side effects and back off treatment if it seems to be adversely affecting your animal."
Hayley warns, "Signs of overconsumption can include vomiting, diarrhea, trouble with equilibrium, or seeming zoned-out or spacey."
3. Can’t Get Your Paws on Cannabis? Try Hemp-Derived Products
"Depending on your location, cannabis products can be hard to come by. Luckily, hemp-based treatments are available...and can provide some of the same relief. Hemp products are high in CBD, a cannabis compound that has lauded medical uses but doesn’t cause the psychoactive high that comes with THC."
Silver pointed to decades-old government research that found that, of all species, dogs have the highest density of THC receptors in their hind brain. That, he said, makes them extremely sensitive to its effects. Because THC exists at such low levels in hemp products, it means a lower risk of overconsumption."
In Hayley's experience, she "found that using hemp-based cannabinoids, which are very low in THC, can cover almost all the bases as far as applications,” he said. “That’s where I always start.”
While Richter, in California, acknowledged that hemp-based products can be effective and are more widely available, he prefers to use cannabis products whenever possible in order to take advantage of the plant’s entourage effect—the synergistic results created by the hundreds of active compounds in cannabis working together. That effect disappears when you try to isolate a specific elements, he said."
4. Pets Have Anxiety, Arthritis, and Cancer, Too
Although the dosage proportions aren’t the same, cannabis can be used to treat the same conditions in pets that it’s used to treat in humans. Cannabis has proven highly effective in treating ailments—including conditions such as anxiety, stress, arthritis, seizures, and even cancer symptoms—in dogs and cats, Richter said. “It’s really just an amazingly versatile drug when used properly.”
Previous surveys and studies of cannabis use in pets have shown that owners have also tried using cannabis-based treatments to manage separation anxiety, noise phobia, irritable bowel syndrome, lack of appetite in their animals. Dog owners reported that hemp products were most effective in treating pain and helping their pet sleep, according to a report published last year in the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. The most common side effects cited were sedation and an overactive appetite. Turns out even dogs get the munchies."
5. Pets Can’t Puff, Puff, Pass—So Try These Methods Instead
There are plenty of edibles for pets these days—including biscuits, soft-chews, and more—that provide easy ways to medicate pets. But a better choice might be a tincture."
“The most commonly suggested format is what they call a tincture, which is usually oil-based and has a very set amount of the cannabinoids in it,” Silver said. Tincture is an extract, typically sold in a small bottle that comes with a dropper, and is recommended for use by the drop or milliliter.
Cannabinoids are best absorbed through a pet’s oral mucus membrane, Silver added, so medicating is as simple as spreading the tincture on your pet’s tongue."