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Brett Hartmann gives his dogs Cayley, a six-year-old-Labrador Retriever drops of a cannabis based medicinal tincture to treat hip pain and anxiety, June 8, 2017 at his home in Los Angeles, California. It’s early morning, just after breakfast, and six-year-old Cayley is wide awake, eagerly anticipating her daily dose of cannabis. The black labrador, tail wagging, laps up the liquid tincture owner Brett Hartmann squirts into her mouth, a remedy he uses morning and evening to help alleviate Cayley’s anxiety. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

legalization | 12.04.2019

Veterinarians need to get serious about the medical benefits of pot for pets

While the issue remains controversial among pet owners.

By pot for pets, I don’t mean rolling a joint and sharing it with your fur baby. Although that would be cool and all, it would undoubtedly do more harm than good. But that doesn’t mean your little, or even massive companion can’t still benefit from cannabis. In fact, the plant can be just as beneficial for pets as it is humans.

Not only does cannabis have the potential to improve the quality of life for dogs and cats, but also horses. However, there are risks involved as well. With that being said, there’s a lot to consider before attempting to administer cannabis to your pet. I decided to reach out to Tina Lathrop of Canna Companion, a company that produces hemp products for pets, and Avery Rose, owner of Love Grass, a cannabis company that also sells pet products, to learn more about the positives and negatives surrounding pot for pets. And to get their advice on what steps you should take before choosing such products for your animals.

Cannabis can benefit cats, dogs, and even horses.

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Photo by Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images

The goal of pot for pets isn’t to get the animals high.

Instead, it’s all about allowing animals to receive the same medicinal benefits that humans derive from cannabinoids.

Canna Companion, in particular, creates hemp supplements designed for cats and dogs using not just one, but several parts of the cannabis plant. According to the company, “when the full spectrum of cannabinoids from the cannabis plant is used, as opposed to a single-compound only product, an increase in health benefits and a decrease in adverse effects are observed.”

In addition to supporting healthy digestion in cats and dogs, Canna Companion‘s products support joint flexibility and mobility. Also, they help support your pet’s immune system and their normal functioning endocannabinoid system. Not to mention, they promote calm and relaxed demeanors and even provide comfort and care throughout the aging process.

Does cannabis affect dogs and cats differently?

“In short, cannabis products do not affect dogs or cats differently because the ECS functions the same in all mammals. Special variations in absorption and metabolism affect dosing, the frequency of administration, and the like,” says Tina. For example, “cats do well with less frequent administration, but their obligate carnivore status means they typically tolerate & require higher initial dosage.”

Along with cats and dogs, horses are among the mammals that can benefit from cannabis as well. In fact, horses have been benefiting from the herb for ages.

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Photo courtesy of Love Grass

Administering cannabis to horses dates back as far as the days of the ancient Greeks.

According to the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, Greek writers “report the use of cannabis in treating horses-especially for dressing sores and wounds.” Ancient Greeks would rub dry cannabis leaves, or create a salve, and apply it the wound to speed up the healing process.

Avery of Love Grass, who happens to be responsible for creating the first-ever cannabis product for horses in California, says she’s even seen research that the US army has used cannabis in the past with horses to ease bloating and skin problems. She also shared a remarkable success story with me about how her product for horses, in particular, quite literally saved a life,

“A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a dispensary in Los Angeles that carries Love Grass.  They told me that a customer had just come into the shop to report that Love Grass saved her horse’s life. Her 27-year-old horse was having daily seizures and was on many prescription pills a day with no success and lots of side effects. In a last effort before euthanizing her horse, she bought our horse product and gave it a try. Three weeks later she entered the shop with tears in her eyes, her horse came back to life and is seizure free.”

Aside from her cannabis product helping significantly with seizures in horses, Avery says she’s also received testimonials of “tumors benign and malignant shrinking, as well as anti-inflammatory benefits, pain relief and much more.”

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Photo via Flickr/Pavel

Is pot for pets safe?

Of course, as Tina says, nothing is risk-free. Although pot for pets isn’t going to get your furry companions stoned, there are other still potential side-effects.

“The most common adverse effects from hemp are sedation (usually very mild and transient) and diarrhea (with powdered or oil formulas).  Rarely do we see itchy/red skin or vomiting, both of which require cessation of hemp therapy as they are indicative of a true allergic reaction,” says Tina.

As far as overdosing goes, it’s quite difficult for pets to OD on both marijuana and hemp, according to Tina, but it is possible.

Tina says that “it is considered easier to overdose on marijuana simply because of concentrations of cannabinoids, regardless of strain type, are higher in marijuana than hemp,” she continues “overdoses are always more difficult with balanced cannabis products. CBD & THC potentiate each other’s positive aspects while mitigating the negatives.”

What pet parents need to know.

I asked both Avery and Tina what advice they would give to someone who is looking to administer cannabis to their pets. After all, pet parents might not know where to start, or where to turn to for more information.

“Our advice is to first and foremost know the product you are using and the quality of it,” says Avery. Second, “try it on yourself before giving it to your pet provide the product is human-grade.  We use the same high-quality human-grade ingredients in our pet products and our people formulas and encourage the pet owner to try it first.  We do not recommend giving more than a trace amount of THC to an animal.  Stick to the nonpsychoactive cannabinoids THCA (the raw uncooked version of THC) and CBD.”

Finally, Avery suggests that you “start with a few drops once a day and see how your horse/pet reacts to it. Once you feel comfortable, you may choose to slowly increase to three times a day or as needed. If any negative side effects occur consult your vet and back down to the last daily dosage where no side effects occurred.  If you are in the competitive world of horses, there are specific rules in regards to administering cannabis to your horse. Be advised before applying Cannabis or any related products such as CBD to your horse.”

Tina says it’s vital to speak with your veterinarian before using pot for pets.

Last summer the American Veterinary Medical Association’s policy-making body called on the DEA to reschedule marijuana to facilitate veterinary research opportunities.

Scientists at veterinary colleges across the United States are calling for the government to allow research into medicinal marijuana for pets.

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Photo by: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

According to Tina, until federal law allows research, the best thing you can do is educate yourself using the resources available at hand. “Research your pet’s condition and cannabis use on NCBIMedical Jane, and Google Scholar.  Those same sites can also provide information on the ECS and help pet parents gain a bit of understanding regarding exactly what their pet’s hemp supplement is going to support,” she says.

Last, but certainly not least, Tina says to “take that newly learned information and apply to with respect to company claims on websites. Keep in mind if the site’s claims are sensational, the pet parent may know more about these compounds than the company.”

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