Medical Marijuana: Should You Get Your Pets High?
We have all read about medical applications of marijuana for humans, but many of the same treatments we find useful can help our furry friends too.
Cannabidiol (CBD) became famous for its medical potential several years ago when the parents of a young girl with Dravet’s Syndrome saw dramatic reduction in her seizures after only the first treatment. Her parents reported that she went from experiencing 300 seizures a week to roughly four per month: a 98% reduction of convulsive episodes. The strain of medical marijuana became known as Charlotte’s Web after the girl whose life it changed.
Many pets suffer from seizures as well. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that what is causes some older pets to experience seizures is prolonged exposure to anti-flea and tick medication. The chemical pyrethroid, common in more than half of household insecticides, is known to cause tremors in pets overexposed to it. It seems only right that if we are going to expose our pets to chemicals that may harm them, we should find ways to help them manage the effects.
Just as the Charlotte’s Web and other CBD-high strains help humans with seizures, so too can they help dogs and cats. Besides medical marijuana, the primary treatment of seizures in animals and humans is phenobarbital, an intense downer able to suppress convulsions, but with side effects like lethargy, dizziness, and confusion. In contrast, CBD medications contain no or very little THC. This allows them to deliver all of the anticonvulsive and anti-anxiety effects without making your pet truly high.
Beyond seizure disorders, CBD is known to help animals suffering from arthritic pain, anxiety, and side effects of cancer treatments or cancer itself. Decrease in joint pain can allows elderly animals to feel like puppies again. Decreased anxiety means you don’t have to clean up as much pee around the house. And for animals going through cancer treatments, CBD is not a magic cure, but it can greatly increase an animal’s comfort and quality of life.
But how do you get marijuana into your pets’ system? Like children, we don’t want to expose them to smoke. Topical CBD oils can be applied to some animals just as they can to humans, but for most furry friends, ingestibles work better. Most companies offer both treats and oils so you can subtly feed your animal on the go or give more potent doses directly on their tongue.
Unfortunately, even as medical marijuana becomes legal in more places, education on CBD’s potential for pets is still underreported. Many people, including veterinarians, are hesitant. They hear “cannabis-derived medication” and immediately assume we mean “let’s feed the dog a pan of brownies.”
Currently, most CBD medication available to cats and dogs is derived from the hemp plant -- not the cannabis plant -- resulting in a product with no THC and therefore no psychotropic effects. In most states, CBD products for pets can be legally ordered online. Companies produce oil and treats to make giving your companion their medication as easy as possible.
Going forward, if we want to see more studies done on CBD’s effectiveness in treating our pets’ seizures, arthritis, anxiety, and cancer treatment side effects, we have to keep working to break the stigma. If you are considering CBD treatments for your pet, bring up the question with your veterinarian. Be prepared with some good scientific information and help them take it seriously.