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Cannabis for Dogs is Becoming a Mainstream Reality

Emily Robertson
cannabis, cannabinoids, THC, CBD, vets, pets, legalization, research, Canada, USA

Dogs are starting to reap the benefits of legalization with access to whole plant cannabis medicine. But, is it safe?

Pets are afflicted by many of the same diseases and chronic conditions that humans face, but often the medicine is completely different. The same is true even between different animal species. This is because what is safe for your cat may not be safe for your dog, and what’s safe for you could be toxic to both. What about cannabis for dogs?

What Does Research Tell Us?

Well, the research on cannabis and pets is still very sparse. Most of what has been done around cannabis has been on rat or human trials. There are not many studies for dogs and these have dealt with CBD exclusively.

We do know that THC has a greater impact on dogs because their cannabinoid receptors are much more plentiful than ours. In fact, THC in large doses can be very toxic. Notably, CBD does not bind directly to cannabinoid receptors, and is not a risk for toxicity.

The College of Veterinarians in various provinces in Canada have yet to give their stamp of approval on cannabis medicine for pets. You’re not likely to get any formal recommendations, but pet parents have taken the leap and tried CBD for anxiety and dementia, with positive results.

Cannabis Medicine for Pets

cannabis, pets, CBD, THC, cannabinoids, research, studies, toxicity, Canada, legalization, USA, vets

There are many pet-focussed hemp products on the market, and these are largely legal on both sides of the North American border.  Hemp-derived products are high in CBD and low in THC (less than 0.03%) and treat pets that suffer from pain, cancer, seizures, or anxiety.

This July, researchers completed a clinical study to understand how hemp-based CBD could ease arthritis in dogs (the study did not include cats). The team investigated a hemp oil product for pets created by ElleVet Sciences. Fortunately, for those pet parents who are already giving their pets hemp or CBD products, the study found that 80% of the dogs showed a marked improvement in their general mobility, along with considerable pain reduction.

If you have a dog with arthritis, you know this can be life changing. Seeing your four-legged baby struggle on walks can be heartbreaking.

More good news is that a compassionate care bill will come into effect on January 1, 2019 (in the US). This means that vets can prescribe medical cannabis without risking their licenses.

CBD Treatment Can Help Dogs With Many Conditions

The uses for CBD in pets are similar to that of humans: pain, gastro-intestinal issues, anxiety (particularly separation), cancer, arthritis and chronic joint pain, inflammation, and seizures.

Many have been concerned that cannabis is toxic to dogs, with stories like dogs dying or becoming very sick from consuming cannabis. But these often come from pets consuming their parents’ product.

As with humans, dose is everything. So, if these pets have eaten uncontrolled doses of THC-heavy cannabis, it’s no wonder they were ill. Dose are based on weight – milligram per kilogram. Even dogs that eat cannabis that has not been decarboxylated, can become very ill. This is because some THCa is converted to THC while flower sits in a bag, and then more is converted inside the dog’s digestive system. Remember, dogs have way more cannabinoid receptors than humans, so it doesn’t take much.

Some symptoms of THC toxicity in your dog include: drooling, vomiting, tremors, seizures, hyperactivity, stupor, and disorientation. A study from 2004 shows these signs as the major cues to call the vet.

cannabis, cannabinoids, pets, vets, CBD, THC, legalization, research, arthritis, pain, cancer, gastrointestinal issues

Moving Away From ‘Harm Research

The studies that have delved into cannabis for pets have focused mainly on harm. For instance, this 2013 study found that cannabis edibles for dogs are highly toxic. But once more, we must keep dose in mind. A 1988 study found that CBD for dogs was ineffective, but did so on fasted stomachs and provided the dose in pill form. The Cornell study has found opposite results.

What About THC Cannabis For Dogs?

A vet in Oakland, Dr Gary Richter, believes that THC can help pets. In fact, sees it firsthand with his own dog, Leo, who suffers seizures. Leo was the victim of a dog attack and subsequent brain damage, which caused his seizures. Dr Richter administered a low-dose THC cannabis concoction daily. Leo went from numerous seizures every week to suffering just one or two a month.

The lesson from this? The science is still unclear. So if you’re going to venture into unknown territory, make sure to speak to your vet. Then, take it slow, and watch your best little buddy for cues on feeling better.

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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