Many humans rely on Xanax for anxiety relief. But, what about household pets? Though it may be surprising to some, cats and dogs can be prescribed antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication when they’re acting blue or need to be sedated. Many human medications, like barbiturates, are prescribed for pets with chronic health conditions. Yet, there may be a new trend in veterinary medicine: pet prescriptions for medical cannabis. Would you give your pet cannabis?
An alternative to veterinary pet prescriptions?
Augie, a four-year-old Chihuahua mix, was given Xanax to help cope with the fourth of July. The explosions and excitement were a little too much for the little guy.Every year, he would tremble, refuse to eat, and refused to be picked up or handled by his owners. To help preserve his sanity, owner Liz Hughston needed to take action. So, she turned to Xanax.
This year, she decided to try something different. An emergency veterinary technician from San Jose, Hughston began treating Augie with cannabis-infused treats to help calm her dog’s anxiety. The difference was noticeable. She explains,
He sat on the sofa and let us pet him; he ate. He went through the fireworks better than he ever had before. – Hughston
Not to mention, by switching to cannabis, Hughston was able to avoid giving her pooch another dose of Xanax, which can have fairly severe side effects.
An emerging market
Hughston isn’t the only pet-parent turning to the herb over traditional veterinary medicines. It is illegal for veterinarians to recommend medical cannabis for pets, but there’s nothing stopping adults with access from treating pets themselves at home.
To meet the rising demand for pet-friendly medical cannabis products, some edibles producers have introduced new product lines. California-based Auntie Deloris is one such company.
In 2013, the Auntie Deloris team launched Treatibles, a brand of CBD hemp chews flavored with blueberry and pumpkin. Their products are now sold online and in pet stores.
CEO Julianna Carella has heard countless success stories after launching Treatibles. She explains,
We have people using it (on their pets) for separation anxiety, or when they’re going to the vet or groomer. We’ve also heard from pet owners who used the product in the last weeks and months of their animal’s life that they were much more comfortable and in less pain. – Carella
But, do pet parents really need to buy pet-specific cannabis products? The answer is yes. Animals and humans have very different tolerances for psychoactive cannabis.
Pet cannabis vs. human cannabis
Edibles for humans can contain upwards of 125mg of THC, the primary psychoactive in the cannabis plant. The total amount of THC allowed in consumable treats depends on laws in individual states. This is not the case for pets.
Cats, dogs, and other animals are very sensitive to THC. In high doses, the substance is toxic to pets. This is especially true with highly concentrated cannabis products like edibles and extracts.
Cannabis treats designed for pets contain only trace amounts of THC. However, many of the new products on the market are high in another nonpsychoactive component of the cannabis plant: cannabidiol (CBD).
Openminded pet owners are turning to CBD and pet-specific cannabis products to help their pets find relief from cancer, seizures, anxiety, arthritis, and pain associated with old age.
Yet, unfortunately, the benefits of cannabis for pets are even murkier than they are for humans. The available research on medical cannabis pertains only to humans and laboratory animals used as human models. Thus far, veterinary cannabis research is almost nonexistent.
Even with a lack of animal-specific evidence, pet parents with sick animals are seeing benefits from cannabis treatment. Kaity Evans, a Californian pet sitter, is one example. Her dog Ziggy has arthritis. Since starting CBD treatment, the improvements have been dramatic. She tells The Press Enterprise,
He is actually picking up his feet when he walks and generally seems to feel better. It’s definitely doing something. -Evans
Recent initiatives in other states have made appeals to include veterinary medical cannabis in legislation. But, so far, pet-owners are still responsible for dosing out the herbal treatment.