My 16-year-old cat, Pearl, enjoys pot. And so does Pete, my 5-year old yellow lab.
Before you judge my furry friends – or me – let me clarify. Pearl and Pete aren’t passing around a bong (the lack of opposable thumbs is just one issue here) or getting second-hand smoke blown in their face (that’s not cool). I feed my pets a tablespoon of coconut oil infused with CBD-rich marijuana. I make my own using Magical Butter botanical extractor, but commercial hemp-based products, such as Canna-Pet, do the trick.
Vets are split on the efficacy of pot for pets because research in veterinary cannabis pharmacology is limited. Federal law still considers marijuana a Schedule 1 narcotic, making scientists hesitant to spend time and money investigating the benefits.
In states where medical marijuana is legal, doctors are allowed to recommend the herb to patients. But it remains illegal in all 50 states for veterinarians to do the same. And PETA and the ASPCA do not support cannabis for animals due to this lack of solid data. But anecdotal reports, including mine, suggest that there is a substantial benefit.
And here is a cautionary tale that every pet lover should read.
But here are some questions to ask yourself and your vet:
What symptom are you trying to address?
I give Pearl cannabis to help alleviate joint pain and to combat arthritis. She is more active and playful than she was before her CBD treatment. Pete gets his marijuana to combat hip pain and as an appetite enhancer – unlike most labs, he is not motivated by food and needs some coaxing. He loves the taste of the coconut oil and loves eating it after a nice afternoon stroll.
One study concluded that marijuana could prevent inflammatory disorders, including skin problems, in dogs. Another study has concluded that CBD has anticonvulsant properties and may be better than conventional veterinary medications.
The most common uses for pet cannabis are:
- Epileptic seizures/convulsions
- Nausea/Chronic vomiting
- Separation anxiety
- Fear of thunderstorms or fireworks
- Appetite stimulation
- Skin rash
- Car travel
- End-of-life care
Do animals get high the same way humans do?
It’s unlikely – but entirely possible – that Pete and Pearl enjoy tripping out to some sweet tunes a little more after eating their medicine. But all mammals have an endocannabinoid system, which regulates how your body utilizes the various cannabinoids present in marijuana. Like you, your pets have receptors throughout their bodies that are activated by these phytocannabinoids.
THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, has been found to be disorienting for some pets (and some humans, too). But there have been no studies suggesting that CBD is harmful in any way to pets. So leave the high-THC strains aside, and find a strain high in CBD for your dog or cat.
Should I tell my vet?
Yes. Your vet may not support your decision, but it is your loved one and it is ultimately your decision. Work with your vet on what is right for your pet and report the progress. Until the federal government lifts the onerous Schedule I designation for cannabis, data will be limited. But that does not mean your pets’ medical options are limited.