While it is apparent that the use of cannabis can be beneficial for the health of humans, an untapped market in the development of CBD as a product is its efficiency with animals as well. When it comes to cannabis, there is very little research on its impact on dogs and cats. Many pet-owners often treat their animals like family members, and will do all they can to make sure that their pet is as healthy as possible. When a pet gets sick and conventional healing options don’t work, many pet-owners have began to look at alternatives, particularly natural healing. Though there are not many trusted individuals who can provide professional consulting on cannabinoid therapies for pets, it is clear to many in the veterinary field that cannabis can be of great use.
The reason that I even began to research more in depth about this topic is because of a conversation I had with my professor. She told our Social Media and Internet Marketing class that her dog often gets anxious and afraid during bad storms. In order to calm the dog down, she utilizes cannabis to assist her animal with sleep. Funny enough, my roommates and I just got a dog of our own, and as hyper as he is, we will most likely use cannabis as a method to calm him down sometimes as well.
In an interview with Project CBD, Gary Richter, an integrative medicine veterinarian based in Oakland, CA, I was able to understand many of the benefits of cannabis use for pets. According to Project CBD, any animal with a backbone has an endocannabinoid system, meaning pets can process cannabis similar to humans in the right dosage amount. Dr. Richter states that,
“Animals can benefit from medical cannabis for many of the same reasons it helps people – for pain, seizure control, gastrointestinal disorders, anxiety-related issues. We’ve also seen positive results with cancer” – Gary Richter, Holistic Veterinarian, 2017
Though there are similar results in humans and pets alike, Richter notes that the reason for the lack of research is because cannabis is still federally illegal, therefore it cannot be funded. Richter believes that once there is a legal pathway, the research will happen because there is too much money involved. He would like to see more research on the effect of cannabis on gastrointestinal issues, pain, and inflammation for animals. Many veterinary patients have seen “dramatic” effects with cannabis as a use for these specific ailments.
When asked about the difference between the endocannabinoid systems in pets versus humans, Richter states that n the big picture they are very similar.
“One striking difference is there appears to be a greater concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the dog’s brain than there are in most other animals. This is significant because it makes dogs more susceptible to THC overdose, potentially giving them a certain amount of neurologic impairment in the short-term. This phenomenon is known as static ataxia.” – Gary Richter, Holistic Veterinarian, 2017
Otherwise, Ritchter notes that when cannabis medicine is used efficiently, their endocannabinoid system will act in the same way it would for a human. Cannabis toxicity is nonfatal and does not cause long-term effects for animals, however, Richter has heard of a few cases where pets did not survive after digging into their owners stash. When used responsibly, the goal of medical cannabis for animals is never to get them “stoned”,rather alleviate their pain in the short term.
In the interview, Richter and Sarah Russo of Project CBD, the pair spoke about a variety if issues with the legalization of cannabis for animals. Richter was asked about the ratio of THC to CBD that is effective, preferred administration methods, and most importantly, education. When asked about how knowledgeable veterinarians are about cannabis thereaprutics, Richter states,
“This is a big problem—the lack of education. The California Veterinary Medical Board is very much against the use of medical cannabis for pets. They don’t want veterinarians speaking with pet owners about it at all, except to say that it is bad and not to use it.” – Gary Richter, Holistic Veterinarian, 2017
This is surprising due to the fact that California has already legalized medical marijuana, and is very proactive in monetizing cannabis as well. While the research is lacking still in the use for animals, it is clear that in the right dosage, animals can enjoy cannabis as well. Once legalized at the federal level, it should be no surprise that research into medical cannabis use for animals will be researched at much greater lengths.